I would like to thank so many people so instead of missing anyone I would like to thank everyone for their time spent in planning, preparing and attending to the minute details.
The heart weighs between 7 and 15 ounces and is a little larger than the size of your fist. By the end of a long life, a person's heart may have beat more than 3.5 billion times. In fact, each day, the average heart beats 100,000 times, pumping about 2,000 gallons, or 7,571 liters, of blood.
When your heartbeat it is an indication that your body is strong all things are well with your entire body. When the heartbeat is weak that is an indication that there is something wrong. Cities and organization also have a heartbeat. When the organization is functioning well there are certain key systems that are functioning effectively so that the organization can achieve the mission and vision that they have embraced. I believe that even cities have a heartbeat figuratively speaking
As I have been meeting, business leaders, city, and state politicians, pastors, school principals, laity and those who live in the neighborhoods of the churches that I have visited, I have been asking “What is the heartbeat of Baltimore?”
Instead of hearing about the wonderful things going in the city I have seen people mentally leave the conversation and begin reminiscing. The favorite phrase that I hear them begin their reflections with is “Back in the Day.”
Back in the Day, the Orioles were great when Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Cal Ripkin were on the team
Back in the day, the Colts were the Baltimore football team. The Real Quarterbacks of Baltimore were Greg Landry, Johnny Unitas, Bert Jones and John Elway.
Back in the day, our economy was strong when the B& O railroad was running products from the great factories like Bethlehem Steel, Glenn Martin, aircraft, were hiring people and fulfilling their promise of healthcare and a pension.
Back in the Day, Peabody Conservatory of music produced the best organists in the country and Morgan State produced teachers for most of the urban public schools in the nation along with the one of the finest music departments in the world.
When I have asked laity and clergy about the heartbeat of The United Methodist Church in Baltimore, I hear phrases like:
- Back in the day, the United Methodist Church was not hurting for members.
- Back in the day, anybody who was somebody was a member of the Methodist Church.
- Back in the day, pews were full and programs naturally multiplied.
- Back in the da,y Methodists had megachurches before megachurches were a trend.
I started to believe that everyone was exaggerating, so I asked our historian Robert Shindle if was there credible evidence of this. He told me about:
- Metropolitan, Lafayette Square (2,025 members active in worship in 1950) the largest church in the Washington Conference.
- Lovely Lane, Baltimore City Station (1,915 members active in worship in 1950) the largest church in the Baltimore Conference;
- Towson (1,400 members in First and Second Churches combined in 1950).
- First and Second Churches merged, 1952 and were able to build the current church building in 1956. Second Church had been a Methodist Protestant Church and the merger was a delayed result of the 1939 reunion of Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Protestant Churches.
- Govans (1,194 members in 1950)was still in operation in 1980 and absorbed the former Boundary Avenue Church in 1983 to become Govans-Boundary UMC.
- Harlem Park (1,064 members in 1950) merged with Grove Chapel, in 1953 to form Wesley Memorial, Westview which closed earlier this year. The former Harlem Park Church was sold and is now Union Memorial UMC, an example of a church changing conference hands (from Baltimore to Washington) before the merger of the Conferences in 1965. Change in the racial make-up of the Harlem Park area resulted in the “white flight” of the Harlem Park congregation, while suburbanization resulted in the Grove Chapel site, once part of a rural circuit, being developed as the Westview community, complete with a shopping mall.
- Otterbein Memorial, Hampden (777 members in 1950) An EUB Church in 1950, this became one of many United Methodist churches in the Hampden area after the 1968 union. Otterbein Memorial was still in existence in 1980. In 1999 the church became Good Shepherd UMC through the merger of Woodberry and Roland Avenue-Evergreen, (itself the result of a 1973 merger). After a fire at Mt. Vernon UMC ten years later, that church merged into Good Shepherd UMC as well.
There is sometimes so much nostalgia about back in the day when churches were full and ministry was vibrant that we overlook the awesome things that God is doing today.
I celebrate our legacy as Methodists in America.
I celebrate being the people of God who embrace scriptural holiness and social holiness.
I celebrate that Methodism in America began here in Baltimore in 1784 with the Christmas Conference at Lovely Lane.
I celebrate the rich heritage of vital, growing congregations what have been a part of our history but I do not want to stare into the rear view mirror as we are trying to move forward. There are vibrant congregations now that are keeping the heartbeat of the United Methodists strong in Baltimore.
Among them are:
- Halethorpe Relay provides and serves lunch at Christ Deaf Church monthly, as well as supporting Deaf/Blind Camp and Deaf ministries; and leads worship monthly for the residents of Glynn Taff Assisted Living and has been doing this 10 years.
- Loch Raven UMC is actively involved in Habitat for Humanity from houses to gardens.
- Sharp Street operates Lydia's House Food Pantry at Sharp Street Memorial is Wednesdays and Fridays, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Hot meals and messages from the pastor are served to individuals and families from the community.The guests are also invited to visit our Clothes Closet during these hours.
- Patapsco UMC hosts Helping Hands Ministry serves a hot meal to 100-150 guests every Friday . During that time, if there are clothes, etc. available, guests are welcome to take what they need.
- Good Shepherd UMC provides a free afterschool program that is busting out of the seams with young people who are doing their homework, receiving a snack and are highly engaged in structured activities in the Hampden area.
- Water's Edge Partnership is our new church start in the Baltimore Harbor.
- A Discipleship Process we are implementing life discipleship, which is an intentional process of leading people to Christ, growing people in faith and strength, and training them to become leaders who can disciple others.
Yes, there are quite a few churches that are on life support and their vital signs are weak.
Yes, there are churches with huge deferred maintenance expenses.
Yes, there are predictions of church closings and destruction of the denomination.
I am here to declare today that the predictors of doom and gloom must not know what I know:
"I serve a risen Saviour,
He's in the world today;
I know that He is living,
Whatever men or women may say;
I see His hand of mercy,
I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him
He's always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and He talks with me
Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He live, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart."
I can sing: "My Hope is Built on Nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but Holy lean on Jesus name. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand."
The Baltimore United Methodist churches have a great legacy of men and women whose lives have been transformed lives by the grace. There is a great legacy of men and women in the Baltimore Metropolitan District whose lives have been transformed by grace. Yes. there are some challenges in the district, but because we are people whose lives have been transformed by the grace of God we can do something about many of these conditions.
I know that in this district we among one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS populations in the nation. As the people transformed by the grace of God, we can do something about that.
I know that in this district it is estimated that there are 4,088 men, women, and children who are homeless in Baltimore on any given night. As the people transformed by the grace of God, we can do something about that.
I know that one out of every four people in our district are living at or below the poverty level in areas that includes As the people transformed by the grace of God, we can do something about that.
I know that the conditions of urban living have expanded beyond the inner city to Dundalk, Essex, Middle River, Overllea and Catonsville As the people transformed by the grace of God, we can do something about that.
I know that Baltimore City public schools are excited about 66% of their student’s graduate but that means 44% are not graduating. As the people transformed by the grace of God, we can do something about that.
I know that there are 327,000 that do not claim to be a part of a church, mosque or synagogue As the people transformed by the grace of God, we can do something about that.
I would like to suggest that we are being set up to be the agents of transformation and grace in the Baltimore Metropolitan District. We are uniquely positioned and gifted to face the difficult challenges facing this city, county and our churches.
My vision is simple:
Transform Impact Excel
Our mission will fall follow the mission of The United Methodist Church. We will address health issues; engage in ministry with the poor; develop leaders; develop new faith communities and revitalize existing communities for new people. I can hear the question that you are asking … .How are we going to do something about all of these huge, seemingly overwhelming challenges?
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
I consulted with the exegetical and hermeneutical Hebrew scholar, Bruce Birch, on this text and his insight on the text illuminated my understanding of the transformational power of prayer.
This periscope is set in a larger context. God is responding to Solomon’s prayer to bless the temple. Solomon had offered up sacrifices to God to bless and consecrate the temple and as God spoke he basically said – If there is trouble in the land – If there is destruction of your land-If things look hopeless, chaotic and out of control - I the Lord God almighty have some help for you.
If you humble yourself, pray and repent, then the Lord God almighty will show up and answer your prayer.
When I go to GNC they always want to recommend vitamin packets that cover a wide spectrum of possible outcomes, from weight loss, to weight gain, to lowering cholesterol to lowing your blood pressure to protein for body builders to how to go bald in a week. The key is they always say you need this vitamin packet because one pill reacts with the other pill and this is how you achieve the results that are promised by those vitamins. This text is like a multi pack of vitamins. If you want the results that God has promised you have. If we want to experience God’s transformation we need to embrace the entire teaching from the text.
The text seems to be self explanatory -- if you read it quickly but on closer examination we notice that God said “humble yourselves and pray”. This is an indication that attitude is important before prayer the Hebrew word translated humble relates to "emptying oneself." We come to God open, ready to receive God's word to us as to express our needs to God.”
That means our prayers should not be God grant me what I think the answer should be.
God our church is in trouble so if you send us a young pastor, who is married with kids and their spouse will lead our Sunday School and they can preach, evangelize, lead bible study, visit all of the sick and shut in, lead the stewardship campaign and if they can sing that will be a bonus, that will work.
Our prayers are to be open and ready to receive from God also. That means there can be no drive by prayers. Prayer is an investment of our time in speaking and listening to God. If we are seeking to be transformed by God our prayers cannot be a monologue but must become a dialogue.
“Prayer is the connector between God, your heart and the elements of change going on around you.” Howard Thurman
Release Self interest and Serve for Impact
Galatians 2:19-20 says "For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Paul is in the middle of a church fight. People were fighting over whether the Jewish Christians were better than the Gentile Christians. They were fighting over whether it the long time church members should have more privileges than the new church members.
I am crucified with Christ and I live no longer. The self has to die: self importance, self direction, self interests, self centered worldviews, and self determined significance.
We have to give up phrases like, "this is my pew," "this is my committee," "this is my church."
We must totally giving up our sense of entitlement and privilege.
But Christ liveth in me — Is a fountain of life in my inmost soul, from which all my tempers, words, and actions flow.
When Christ is living in you, then you can serve others with no agenda.
When Christ is living in you, you are willing to follow the call of God in your life even when it disrupts your life.
When Christ is living in you, you are able to love unconditionally.
When Christ is living in you have joy unspeakable in the midst of chaos.
When Christ is living in you, you have a swagger as you walk this Christian journey.
When you serve at the direction of God we no longer talk in terms of mission for mission sake but we begin talking about serving others as a game changer.
Start talking about ending homelessness in Baltimore - That is a game changer.
Start talking about 100% graduation rate in Baltimore City – That is a game changer.
Start talking about providing access to health care to the poorest of the poor in Baltimore – That is a game changer.
1 Corinthians 2:9 says, "But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Paul was quoting Isaiah 64 as he was speaking a word of encouragement to a fledgling church about what they can expect when the Spirit moves in their midst and the grace of God abides with them.
When you look at the text and place it on the backdrop of the Baltimore Metropolitan District, I clearly see a translation that not everyone can see nor handle. I see and hear the text saying “The Best is Yet to Come in Baltimore”
I can't help but sing:
"A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
Oh, may it all my pow’rs engage
To do my Master’s will!"
I still believe that we should expect great things when the Spirit moves in their midst and the grace of God abides with them
When the Spirit of God is moving and the grace of God pours down on you like a warm summer rain – The power of God contained in these blessings will
Apprehend your Apathy
Belay your Boredom
Clean up your Catastrophes
Delete your Depression
Empower your Enthusiasm
Fragment your Frustration
Give you Gusto
Help you overcome Hindrances
Identify your Issues
Jumpstart your Joy
Kickstart your Kindness
Lift you out of Loneliness
Move your Mountains
Nurture your Neglected
Overcome your Oppression
Position for God’s Providence
Quell your Quarrels
Reverse your Rigidness
Secure your Success
Transform your Troubles
Uncover your Uniqueness
Verify your Victory
Witness to your Weakness
Exceed your Expectations
Yes to your Yielding. and
Zip to Your Zing
As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Dr. Evan Young, I too have a dream.
I have a dream that when other conferences are looking for models of how to do congregation transforming urban ministry, they look at what is happening in Baltimore Metropolitan District.
I have a dream that when publishing houses are looking for authors to write articles about how to transform churches in communities where the economy has devastated the neighbor because of a major industry moving out like in Sparrows Point, Dundalk and Essex, they look to the Baltimore Metropolitan District.
I have a dream that when conferences in our Jurisdiction look for models of church vitality where the churches are growing, thriving and paying 100% of their apportionments, they look at what is going on in the Baltimore Metropolitan District.
I have a dream that when it comes time for Camp Hope and Camp Life we model radical hospitality and be the presence of God’s grace in the lives of children and youth and that the people serving in these camps are servant leaders from the Baltimore Metropolitan District.
I have a dream that we become the go to people for Celebrate Recovery Ministries in the Baltimore Metropolitan District.
I have a dream that we initiate and support five health clinics in our poorest neighborhoods in the city and the county.
I have a dream that 100% of the congregations in the Baltimore Metropolitan district will be vital, thriving congregations.
I have a dream that we will have vital congregations everywhere that become the new heartbeat of Baltimore.
I believe that we can do this because of the grace of God working in us and through us to usher in the reign of God here in Baltimore.
"I still have peace
I still believe
I can conquer anything
And it still by the grace of God
Still have hope
I've come through worse before
I have never walked alone
I've been kept by the grace of God"