Roar of the Lion

July ushers in a month of lion-centered storytelling for our Sunday School and 2nd Sunday. Our main story for July will be Daniel and the Lions. When you come to Sunday worship you will see two big lions decorating our chancel, these were painted by the families at Messy Church!

July is the season, too, of new pastors being appointed all over the country. I am honored and blessed to be reappointed by the bishop to continue to serve the people of Camas United Methodist Church! We are doing so much good here and I am so very glad.

Our church is now participating in First Fridays in downtown Camas. Last Friday we blessed about 70 pooches during our Blessing of the Animals for the Dog Days of Summer.
Our church is now participating in First Fridays in downtown Camas. Last Friday we blessed about 70 pooches during our Blessing of the Animals for the Dog Days of Summer.

For this next year we can expect to continue to explore what it means to be a people of strong faith. Daniel, though a stranger and ‘outsider’ in Babylon, grew to a position of importance, came to be loved and respected, and, in a testament to his faithfulness, survived a night in a pit with hungry lions by the intersession of God. Can you imagine having a faith that strong?

I am always working to strengthen my faith. There is nothing in my life as good as God. It is my hope that by my life I can contribute to the work that makes this world a better place according to God’s plan for all of us. I know that you, too, seek this in your own lives. Daniel is an ancient model for us, but we, too, are all exemplars in our own way here and now. What kind of example will we set? How will we live the call to a life of service, humility and trust in God.

I have stepped out to serve in a new way. This Annual Conference I was inspired by the testimony of Rev. Heather Sparkman (Rochester UMC) and Rev. Jon Short (Vancouver First UMC) as they talked about Jamaa Letu, the orphanage in Congo sponsored by our conference. We heard also from a young woman who is the first college graduate from Jamaa Letu! This accomplished young woman speaks 5 languages and earned a degree in health sciences. Our conference provides much of the needed funding for care of these children as they grow, and supports them as well in essential secondary education.

When Jamaa Letu was first founded, 116 churches in our conference pitched in to help. Today, only 76 do that. We can be glad that Camas United Methodist Church is one of those 76, contributing each year with our Change for Change coin drive, a drive we finished up in June. But the drop off in local church support overall has caused a drop off in needed funding. As a result, Jamaa Letu is no longer running at capacity. There is room at the orphanage for at least 15 more children but there is no funding to support them.

I could not let that stand. “What you do to the least of these, you do to me” Jesus says. Congo has been decimated by war, poverty, and disease. Many children end up as orphans. We cannot let beds sit idle when we all have so much. I stepped up and pledged to provide support.

Today I received the name and age of the child I will be helping as he grows up. When I saw his face and read his name I wept. His name is Leon! In a month where we will be telling the story of Daniel, that this child’s name is Leon is too much coincidence for me to accept. This child is being cared for by the Holy Spirit.

Leon NawejLeon is 6 years old. He was born at the border of Zambia and Congo and was orphaned when Malaria took his mother. How glad I am in this moment that I contributed to Imagine No Malaria efforts by the United Methodist Church! Though this effort did not save Leon’s mother, it will save countless others.

Please join me in prayer for Leon and Jamaa Letu and our own Camas United Methodist Church for this new year ahead. I am honored to be in a place where my contribution matters. For no one is too near, too small or too far away to have the love and care of God.

Be blessed,

Pastor Richenda

Notable Legislation at Conference

Another Annual Conference has come and gone and what a lot of good things are going! The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference was of short duration this year, spanning only two and a half days. With General Conference just last month, it was felt to be a wise move to have an ‘Annual Conference light’ this year.

Though we met for only a short time instead of our usual week, we did a number of good things. We commissioned 7 new clergy candidates and one candidate for deacon. We also ordained three elders and one deaconess. We affirmed the exemplary ministries of a number of local churches, celebrated the dawning of our own Pacific Northwest chapter of Project Transformation, elected another Conference Lay Leader, and appealed for help to rebuild for the people of Paternos, which was the site of last year’s terrible wildfire.

If our business at conference was brief, we none the less tackled big issues. The biggest issues for our us were in speaking to the ongoing business of General Conference, specifically the conversation around the inclusion of all people in ministry and fossil fuel divestment.

Rev. Richenda speaks at the microphone from the body of the legislative floor during Annual Conference. Rev. Richenda spoke in favor of both divestment and nonconformity. The nature of Methodist Conferencing encourages many voices to participate in these kinds of important conversations.  Photo by PNWUMC.
Rev. Richenda speaks at the microphone from the body of the legislative floor during Annual Conference. Rev. Richenda spoke in favor of both divestment and nonconformity. The nature of Methodist Conferencing encourages many voices to participate in these kinds of important conversations.
Photo by PNWUMC.

For the first of these, our Annual Conference passed a ‘Action of Nonconformity’ stating that we would not be in compliance with the Book of Discipline regarding exclusion of LGBTQI people and would not put any funds toward judicial trials. This statement was crafted by a team assembled for that purpose and begins with a preamble largely written by Rev. John Helmiere of Valley and Mountain in Seattle, WA:

“Trusting in the Author of Life who makes no mistakes when creating her children, inspired by the nonconforming Christ who taught us to defy oppression in all its forms, and led by the Holy Spirit who continually liberates us from our addiction to law and into a life of grace, The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference as a body affirms our commitment to be a radically hospitable church.”

The measure passed 315 to 74 with 6 abstentions.  Our Pacific Northwest joins a number of other Annual Conferences who, citing ‘biblical obedience,’ passed statements of support for an inclusive church. The conversation was difficult at times, with tears shed in testimony to the pain and consequences of exclusion, the pain of a church divided, and the hope that stopping the trials would put everyone on equal footing as we continue this conversation with the greater church.

Another big piece of legislation was a petition for our Conference and Foundation to divest from Fossil Fuel companies. Many young people spoke movingly of this legislation, and it was spearheaded by young clergy involved in FossilFreeUMC. The legislation passed overwhelmingly, and will give us until January 1, 2018, to divest.