To My Fellow Methodists

My most direct connection to Jesus is through my mother, Lovie Westbrook Fowler, who was a member of Hornbeck Methodist Church as a child and the Hornbeck United Methodist Church when she left her old hometown to come to our area where she lived her life out in a nursing home in Angleton.

My father grew up closer to fundamentalist evangelical churches in his childhood. But my mother and he had me kneeling at the altar of our small Methodist church in Jacinto City to be baptized before I was six.

Like many of the young people in the 20th century, I drifted away from the church, but God and my mother kept calling me back, forgiving me, welcoming me, and allowing me to feel needed.

The United Methodist Church was always with me. Even when I tried to ignore it. Even when I advised others that it was out of touch with the 20th Century, that it was anti-science, that the people who went there were mostly hypocrites.

Now in my 79th year, I see more clearly the need to make disciples of all the world.

In the 20th Century our parents fought wars, they suffered economic depression, but they helped each other when neighbors were victims of weather events, crimes, or hatred armed with weapons of war. United Methodists were always teaching the stories of Jesus: stories of love, generosity, and kindness.

We need the church more today even than in the days of my youth.

We need the stories of Jesus.

When I consider the issue that confronts us and challenges our unity in the UMC today, I think about my mother, and I try to think how she would have decided.

I think she would tell me that God, through Jesus, has told us to love one another. To be fair in our dealings. To make the circle of love as big as we can, never to cast out people we do not understand – people like tax collectors and sinners. Our job is to help make the circle bigger. To love mercy, to do justice, and to walk humbly with our God.

She would tell me that we do fairly well with mercy.

But she would tell me that we have a lot to do yet to meet the requirements of justice and humility.

She would say that we have a responsibility to love one another and to inform everyone of their right to full participation in God’s community through our church. And that we must remain United Methodists. Not just Methodists. Not Global Methodists. But United Methodists.

We must honor love wherever it exists in a world affected too much by hate. We must eliminate those parts of our discipline that make us the judges of the relationships people enter into to express love and commitment in their shared lifelong journey toward sanctification and perfection. Not one of us is there yet. We cannot judge others. Thankfully, it is not our job.

We should not ask how people express their love just so we can judge them. We should not require that people be classified as L, G, B, T, Q. or cis. We should welcome all God’s people into our membership, FULL membership. Let all who qualify for ministry become ministers of the word. Let all who qualify become leaders in our congregations.

While we must always require love, we should never appoint ourselves to make judgments about the expression of love between people who commit to living their lives together in peaceful, loving relationship. We should celebrate when we find those places where love exists. And we should offer the sacred services of the church to all who require them for the fullness of their lives in Christian community.

I have remained a member of the United Methodist Church even though our Book of Discipline includes prideful, exclusionary passages aimed at the people we now refer to as LGBTQ, etc. I stay because I know that the Discipline clearly is not always inspired by God. It only gives us some agreed upon rules about how we will work together to achieve God’s purposes on Earth. We make mistakes in foundational documents. They can and must be corrected.

If some would choose to leave our church family because we make those corrections, I feel certain that God will lead them back some day and that the United Methodist Church will thrive and continue to provide leadership in a world that hungers for the word of God. That is our job. And I hope to be able to continue doing that work with you as members of a vibrant and open United Methodist Church.

Annie, Jr. – the Joy of Theater Is for Everyone

It will most likely be over before anyone reads this. In any case, the show has sold out both of its scheduled performances. But you can see a few of the shots I have taken at my Flickr site. I will be adding more photos later today.

Annie, Jr. is a Penguin Project production presented by Brazosport Center Stages, a part of the Brazosport Fine Arts Council, with a grant from Community Foundation of Brazoria County’s Mike and Leslie Lowrey Community Service Fund.

Penguin Project plays are scaled back versions of classic musicals designed for kids with special needs. Each character is accompanied by a mentor of the same age that appears with them on stage and in costume. The mentors assist with blocking and lines as needed. Since the mentors play roles and are also in costume, sometimes it is impossible to distinguish them from all the other players.

Here is a sampling of what I saw at the invited dress rehearsal:

Oliver Warbucks and Annie sing and dance (very well, by the way)

Orphans – You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

The players performed with talent, energy and visible joy.

Lorin Furlow was the production coordinator and the BCS board member who initiated our adoption of the project several years ago. In the meantime there was Covid. That set back production for a couple of years.Thank you BFAC and Brazosport Center Stages for starting a Penguin Project chapter for our area. But they have it going now and I feel certain there will continue to be opportunities for special needs kids who live South of Town.

Ready to Re-Up

David Brooks and Vladimir Putin gave us a lot to think about this morning. If you remember, Putin is Trump’s favorite president after himself. (That thing with Kim Jong-un was just one of those little summer romances.) David Brooks tells us some problems Democrats need to be working on in order to keep Trump away from the Oval Office. They are excellent points.

Problem is, he doesn’t tell us what we need to do. I may have a few ideas but it will take time to sort them out and get them on paper.

In the meantime, Putin is a leader and role model in a worldwide move toward authoritarianism. America will once again be asked to stand up for human rights, the rule of law, and democracy around the world.

Putin has me in a mood to let my old olive drab fatigue pants out about three to five inches and go sign up again.

We should all be so angry about what is going on in Ukraine.

Hidden Treasures: LJ Downtown

As we awaited freezing temperatures this week, we wrapped our new and tender citrus trees. Both had been planted after last year’s freeze. The only other thing to do was to prepare for the possibility of a prolonged power outage. If you subscribe to the Texas power grid, all you can do is pray.

I did not do that, preferring to allow God to apply his considerable band width to the Russia-Ukraine business, global climate issues, and the Olympic athletes hurling themselves down mountains at 90 m.p.h.

Having done all the preparation we could, enter that bitterest of gremlins, irony.

Continue reading “Hidden Treasures: LJ Downtown”

The Lion in Winter: Opening Friday Night at Brazosport Center Stages

Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine give us their family dysfunction with such a combination of loving and loathing, tenderness and violence, and whiplashing from one to the other so adeptly that they become fearful to the extreme. Fearful to each other, to the lands they contest to rule, and to us in the audience.

Why should they frighten the audience, you ask? Well, maybe it’s just me but I kept seeing King Donald and Melania of Slovenia on the stage with the kids and dad’s chief paramour, all contending for a slice of the pie.

Well, set that aside and stay focused on the Twelfth Century. Just relax and enjoy family dysfunction as entertainment. This play, this director (Judi James) and this cast deliver.

For example, here’s an argument at the dinner table.

Arguing at the dinner table. The kids at play in Henry and Eleanor’s dysfunctional family.

Much of it has to do with the complicated relationships involving Pop and the lady they picked when she was younger (a lot younger) to be married to one of the sons.

Maybe the coolest head on the stage, Dad’s not-so-secret girlfriend, Alais, played by Lisa Chapa.

And if you thought Mama was taking her incarceration lightly (her loving hubby’s doing), she will remind you that she carries a switchblade.

But believe me, this is serious drama and the cast is fantastic. If you are a BCS follower and fan, you will know Susan Moss (Mummy, aka Eleanor of Aquitaine), Devon Smith (Pops, aka Henry II), Craig Fritz (as one of the conniving sons), Lisa Chapa (as Alais), and lots of new ones. And the newbies are very good.

If you enjoyed the photographs, thank the lighting designer. (I’m not sure who that is, but I think one of the actors may have been involved. I’m guessing Lisa Chapa.) Also the costumers, set designers, builders, and all the people it takes to put on a production of this quality. Thank them all. They have done a superb job under the most difficult mid-pandemic conditions.

It opens Friday in the Freeport LNG Theater in the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences. But only about a quarter of the seats are being sold to reduce the risk of spreading Covid. They won’t tell you this, but I don’t care what the guvner won’t allow, I’m gonna tell you anyhow: Wear a mask, dammit.

Make your reservations here. See more rehearsal photographs here.

Remembering Theresa Jackson

Today we remember Theresa Jackson and the smile that would warm the darkest of days and penetrate the darkest of hearts. We will miss her.

Theresa Jackson 1945 – 2021

This is a picture I took the last time I saw her on February 26 of this year at the Say Their Names Memorial exhibition at the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences. She was there as one of the organizers. Of course.

Read more about her life in today’s edition of The Facts.