These two spring months of May and June are family-centered months and months of celebrations, from Mother's Day, to Memorial Day, Father's Day, graduations, weddings, confirmation, commission, ordination, Pentecost and new pastoral appointments to mention a few. With God's creation in its beauty far from the dog days of summer, this is a blessed time. This is a time of new beginnings.
For many, celebrating becomes difficult with downsizing, lay-offs, factory closings, tight budgets, mobility, job losses and new graduates not finding promised employment when they began their educational quests four years ago. New beginnings can be painful.
During the past month, one of my colleagues in pastoral ministry challenged me for a continuing stance in the newspaper on behalf of the Indiana Conference battling against the expansion of legalized gambling in Indiana. That battle continues as a special session of the General Assembly meets in the weeks ahead to approve a state biennial budget. According to press reports, the gambling industry already has said it will try to expand gambling in Gary, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis - all tempting sources of revenue for a downsized state budget. No organization seems willing to challenge this potential expansion. No organization is moving to oppose this expansion unless the church stands against this menace of contemporary society which destroys the lives of thousands of families.
In listening to criticism against the church gaining press coverage when opposing gambling or opposing smoking, I heard the question, "Why can't we hear stories about the church standing FOR someone." Yes, we also need to be advocates of the voiceless and speak with and on their behalf as the voiceless grow in number during an economic downturn.
Stories of faith and hope need to be told of how the church interacts WITH our neighbors and our communities. We need to interact WITH those beyond our churches' doors and those who come to us for assistance without judgment, just as Jesus interacted with the people of his day. We need to listen, not talk and learn from our listening before assuming we know.
These stories, seldom published in newspapers and broadcast on TV news, are important to us and our well-being as people of faith. Some of those stories are here in this issue of Together to inspire and to challenge us. Read and share stories of outreach to neighborhoods on Page 1, a Lenten prayer walk through an inner city neighborhood on Page 6, Hoosier volunteers continuing to travel to New Orleans to join other people of faith in building Habitat for Humanity homes and others in Monticello replacing a veteran's flooded home on Page 11. These are stories about real people giving beyond themselves and their well-being to meet others' needs.
This issue also will brief you on some of the topics, celebrations and outreach coming to the first Indiana Conference gathering next month in Muncie. The conference's 2,400 members will be about RETHINKING CHURCH as they reach out to their neighbors in clusters of congregations in new and different ways. The question to consider becomes, "What if the church was thousands of doors beyond our buildings. What if." Take at look at pages 4 and 5 and visit 10thousanddoors.com. More news and continuing information about Annual Conference can be seen on the new Indiana Conference Web site at www.inumc.org.
Even during despair, be reminded we are people of hope, people of the Resurrection and people of The United Methodist Church. Celebrate.
Daniel R. Gangler