There’s a guy named Jim that I have known for quite a few years. We have been in a number of small groups together studying the Bible, discussing various books and we’ve both attended a number of gatherings to explore social principles. We are friends on Facebook and it is clear that Jim and I don’t always see eye to eye on certain subjects. But I have always liked Jim. He’s a gentle, kind and talented man. He’s thoughtful and open-minded. Last week we were at an event together hosted by a Church and Society Group where folks from local churches come together to explore different issues that affect our society and as we consider ways that the church is called to respond. Last week’s Crucial Conversation was on Welcoming the Stranger where we learned about complex immigration issues. At the end of the evening, Jim came up to me and said something about having had an epiphany recently about why he liked being a part of the United Methodist Church, and more specifically our local church, St. Francis UMC in Cary.
In the coming days, my curiosity got the best of me and we engaged in a conversation where I asked Jim to elaborate. Jim was gracious to do so and has given me permission to share his thoughts. Here’s what Jim shared:
“I won’t go into a lot of my background, except to say, I was baptized a Methodist, confirmed a Presbyterian, married a Lutheran (Missouri Synod conservative), then married a Methodist. I was very comfortable as a Lutheran for over 20 years; perhaps because it was very much in line with my conservative viewpoints on religious, political and social issues.
“When I married Susanne, she belonged to First Methodist Cary; shortly after we built our house in Apex, we became members of St. Francis and I have been a member now for about 15 years. During that time, I often pondered whether I was in the right church; so many of my brothers and sisters seemed to have such opposing views on so many of the issues that had once been the foundation of my conservative beliefs. Several months ago, a close friend happened to mention to me, during casual conversation, that he thought I was a very “judgmental” person. I thought about that a moment and responded: “I think I used to be very judgmental, but I don’t think that I am anymore”. So his question was, “what has changed?”
“I didn’t know how to respond to that at the time. It wasn’t until about two weeks ago that I had that “aha” moment; some would call it an epiphany. I believe that God has put me at a Methodist church and more specifically St. Francis, because of the diversity of my brothers and sisters, in thoughts, opinions and beliefs, on all things religious, social, and political. God has put me in this place to broaden my understanding of others, to accept those who have differing viewpoints, values, and beliefs, to be “non-judgmental” in both my thoughts and responses. God created us as individuals, yet one body, and if we are to do His work here on this earth, we need to make good use of our differences to accomplish what He would have us do. So, this has been just one more step in my personal journey; learning to accept and even appreciate our differences. I thank God that He has taken me down this path and that He will continue to show me the way. “
My hope and prayer is that I can be as open to appreciate and respect the differences of my brothers and sisters in Christ as Jim has demonstrated, and that I can maintain a posture of listening more than speaking so as to better understand the perspectives of others. I give thanks for the witness of Jim Sprague and am pleased that he is my brother in Christ.
Peace and blessings, y’all,
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Claire – Why My Friend Jim Enjoys Being a United Methodist – 10.02.2017
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