- by Rob Lee -
Garrison Keillor is coming to Appalachian State University next week, the iconic radio voice of the Prairie Home Companion has some rather insightful things to say about Methodists, including this song called The Methodist Blues:
Been going to church since I was a boy. Now I'm old and I'm low on joy. I feel tired, is there something I missed? Or is it just that I'm Methodist? I got the Methodist blues.
Sit in the sanctuary Sunday morn. Minister talks about being reborn. I've got a load of guilt that I've been carryin. I wonder if I shoulda been Unitarian.
The organ is soupy and the pastor is bland. Leave afterward and I shake his hand. Sometimes I'd like to shake my fist. That's what it's like to be Methodist. I got the Methodist blues.
Lot of odd people sitting in the pews . They want the sermon to reflect their views. some of these Christians, they are the rudest. Maybe I ought to try being Buddhist?
People gossip about who did what, the ladies circle is a pain in the butt. Want to slap their face or at least their wrist. But I can't cause I am a Methodist. I got the Methodist blues.
It's not easy being Methodist. Troubles? We got a whole long list. We're too rational, too Socratic. Sometimes I wish we were charismatic.
We're not big on shows and dances, mixed drinks or big romances. I've been hugged but never French kissed. At least not by a Methodist. I got the Methodist blues.
The same ten people always volunteer, half of them old, the others just weird, I got the blues and I'm getting more bluish… Maybe Jewish?
Everyone's afraid of change. Don't like anything new or strange. or we get our underwear in a twist That's how it is with a Methodist I got the Methodist blues.
God put us here to serve a mission. But we spend big bucks to air condition. And in winter we heat it to make it uterine, I could be Lutheran.
We were founded by John Wesley, not Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley. We're not so hip but we persist. We go on being Methodist. We got the Methodist blues.
I remember very vividly coming home from General Conference and one person asked me what I accomplished and I burst into tears. I felt like we accomplished the silencing of a marginalized people, I felt like budgets and numbers took more importance than beloved children of God.
One year ago this month, we gathered around a table and sang hymns, celebrated the Eucharist, and were caught in the crosshairs of a politically-charged battle over inclusion. I remember seeing my friends, people I love beside themselves because they weren’t given a chance to celebrate who they are and who God created them to be. I started to realize that the United Methodist Church would never be able to realize who we are and who God created us to be until we celebrate diversity within our ranks.
Yes, you could say I have the Methodist blues. Anytime some says conference I cringe. It’s a dark spot on the underbelly of a church I love. Pundits and professors predict that we will eventually face greater woes, words like split and schism are thrown around like child’s play. One of my professors asked me the other day if I was enjoying the last years of United Methodism as we know it.
Maybe I’m naïve, ignorant or too optimistic but General Conference 2012 wasn’t the beginning of the end. Maybe just maybe it was a call to action of a different kind. The church is on the move, we’re not where we were, and we’re not where we’re going. The identity crisis of the Methodist Church will be defined either as a scar or fatal by what we do here in the years leading up to 2016 and beyond.
I debated writing this article for a long time. General Conference is a memory I cherish but it’s also a reminder that it’s going to take people who don’t have the power now to change the course of Methodism. Reconciling Ministries is a wonderful entity that isn’t trying to change policy from the top-down; we’re all getting together and talking, telling our stories, and affecting change on a grassroots level.
Now is our call to action. The wounds are starting to heal; the pain is a little duller. This is our time to change the course of a denomination we love. I’ve stopped listening to the voices that say that the church is a by-gone institution and we should let it go its way and we’ll go ours. The answer to our problems is not schisms, splits or committees. The answer to our problems as a denomination is a grace that transcends our conception of discipline and leads to real social change.
If I’m ever lucky enough to have a family, and we look back on the 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Florida, I want to be able to say with joy that the loudest voice of oppression was not the resounding voice. That 2012 and the years that followed was a turning point for people called Methodists, that we took grace, love, and equality seriously, and we abandoned our misconceptions and fears and sailed towards the open seas of inclusion. It’s just a hope, but I think we’re all tired of the Methodist blues.
. . .Rob Lee, 20, is a lifelong United Methodist and member of Broad Street United Methodist Church in Statesville, North Carolina. Rob is an undergraduate religious studies major at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Rob is an advocate within the church from a General Conference (2012 Delegate) to the local church level. Rob has a weekly column in the Statesville Record and Landmark and other North Carolina papers. Rob is a blogger who blogged and wrote stories for UMCommunications during the 2012 General Conference. Rob has plans to attend seminary, and continue to advocate for justice within the church. Rob enjoys movies, friends and hiking. He lives in Boone with his dog Rusty.