With urgency, let us dare to go forth to be and experience the heart of God in the world…


A Letter from Pastor Andy

January 27, 2021

Dear U Park Family,

When you were growing up, what did you learn about how to live well? What did you learn about what you wanted in life, and how to pursue those dreams? I learned different things from different sources, often incompatible, some of them wise and others soul-crushing. My parents and grandparents, along with teachers and other adults I admired, taught me values like service and hard work and compassion. They valued education. They taught me the importance of patience and focus, of working persistently toward a goal over a long period of time. (I can’t say I learned any of those lessons well, then or now, but I continue to chip away at it.)

Other maxims were more toxic, mostly unspoken, but at least as powerful. I suspect I’m like most of us in that I found those lessons easier to learn and harder to outgrow. I learned about what Isabel Wilkerson calls “Caste” in this country. I learned appallingly destructive lessons about gender and human relationships, social class and opportunity. I became so habituated to certain kinds of injustice that I simply couldn’t see them despite looking right at them.
In all that learning, though, the good and the bad, here’s something no one ever told me: be weak. Give up on wisdom as your culture defines it; pattern your life instead on the foolishness of surrender. In that defeat is true wisdom. Live after the example of a crucified God. Be weak as God is weak.

No one told me these things because they fly in the face of all we think we know about how to live well. Oddly, though, that is Paul’s perspective on the wisdom of God: “We preach Christ crucified,” he writes, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.”
This weekend in worship will be the last of our sermon series on our church’s vision and mission. In my sermon, I’ll focus on Paul’s proposal for a fulfilling human life, and how it’s different than the vision on offer in the Roman Empire of his day and all the Empires of ours. I hope you’ll join us for worship at 10:00 A.M. Sunday on our YouTube Channel.
Above, I mentioned Isabel Wilkerson. Last Wednesday, we launched our study of her book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” We’ll continue that study via Zoom from 6:00 – 7:30 Wednesday evenings, using the “Zoom rooms” feature for small group discussion and also joining together in the larger group. 32 people have joined the group thus far, and I’m excited for the opportunity to talk with so many of you about such an important topic for our country and for our faith. If you’re interested in joining the study, contact me at adunning@uparkumc.org and I can send you the Zoom invitation.

Susan Livingston and I are launching a second reading group, this one focused more specifically on spiritual life. We’ll begin with Henri Nouwen’s book Making All Things New, which is a short, beautifully and clearly written volume on prayer and other spiritual practices. We haven’t set time and date for that study yet, so contact me if you’d like to be part of it and those of us who make up the group can try to find a time that works for all of us.

Finally, just a reminder that all church members are invited to join us (via Zoom) to vote on becoming a reconciling congregation on Sunday, February 14 after worship. Last year, our vision team decided that this would be part of our work as we move toward our vision for ministry. If you’d like to be part of this exciting step in our church’s history, just let me know and we’ll have you join us on that day as we vote to adopt the reconciling statement that our vision team drafted. If you have questions about this, we’ll have meetings via Zoom at noon on each of the next two Sundays. Again, anyone who would like to learn more is welcome to contact me at the church, and I’ll be happy to answer questions and discuss what this means for us and our ministry.

This week, we hear news of increased vaccinations coupled with the hopeful sign of new COVID-19 cases and positivity rates declining. Still, we’re being warned that we’re perhaps six months or more away from the end of this crisis. Thinking about all this, I’m reminded of Psalm 30: “Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Joy and morning are on the way. I hope that we can lean on one another for support in the meantime. Please reach out if I or the church staff can be of help or support to you as we weather this storm.

Grace and Peace,


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