Wednesday, August 24, 2016

As we begin with the mission study themes for this coming year, we must explore their complexity and our roles and connections to them.  Consider God’s creation as a great banquet table filled with people from our churches, communities, family and world.  Who sits with us?  Who doesn’t?  What are the challenges we face as we meet and welcome others?  Who's backs are against the wall? We will approach these questions and more with exploration, discernment and prayer giving us hope and direction.

The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift
 By Ellen A. Brubaker
 Leader’s Guide By M. Garlinda Burton
Janice Nightingale-Study Leader

The 2016 Spiritual Growth study invites us to explore the complexity of the biblical text and our varied understandings of it in light of human sexuality. We will also examine the influence of theologians and church leaders throughout thousands of years of JudeoChristian history. Finally, we will consider the influence of family systems, heritage, and changing gender roles, along with the impact of race, class, age, ethnicity, and orientation and how each of us was reared and instructed in our Christian faith. Talking about Sexuality and the Church Whether you agree or disagree with the official stances of The United Methodist Church, it is important to be conversant about them. It is important to be aware of your own beliefs, feelings, biases, and understandings because this self-awareness leads to conversation and understanding. Sexuality is not an easy topic for most of us. Many Christians have confusing and complicated notions of human sexuality, the Bible, our personal beliefs, and what the church should and should not teach and require. It is Good The good news, says Ellen Brubaker, is that human sexuality “is part of who we are as human beings, created by God and called good.” Sexuality, at its best, is a divine gift meant to enhance and strengthen relationships and draw us closer to our partner, she explains. And there are many citations in the Bible that point to the good gift of sexuality, explicitly and implicitly, beginning with the creation stories in Genesis. Finding a Loving Response The world is watching and waiting for a relevant, compelling, loving, challenging, and cogent word from the Body of Christ. Our silence or simplistic “thou shalt nots” are no longer adequate for the people in our care—for those who claim church membership and those who need and seek spiritual community. We are sexual beings. God made us that way. Sexuality can be celebrated and it can be exploited; it can draw us closer to the one we love, or it can divide whole communities of faith. Yet, we are called to be the Beloved Community of healing, wholeness, reconciliation, and love. How we help one another make sense of the beauty and complexity of sexuality is the purpose of this study. Open your minds and hearts, and let’s wrestle together. Adapted from the Leaders Guide by M. Garlinda Burton 
Climate Justice: Call to Hope and Action
 Edited by Pat Watkins
 Leader’s Guide By Anna Rhee 
Debra Gerrish-Study Leader
Climate Justice: Call to Hope and Action will deepen your understanding and awareness of climate change and its impact on God’s creation. The study highlights justice, peace, and integrity of creation as important dimensions of partnering in God’s mission today. It offers participants biblical, theological, and ethical insights as the basis of their advocacy on climate justice in churches and in the public sphere. Deepen Understanding Learn not only about climate change, but also about the justice concerns raised by the drivers of climate change and the communities affected by it. Participants in this study will also learn how their own actions contribute to climate change and what they can do to positively affect the environment. Equipped with this information, they will be able to share their knowledge, be intentional about living a sustainable lifestyle, and learn how to support those who suffer because of climate change. Diverse Perspectives Each chapter gives a different perspective of climate justice through the eyes of eight diverse authors. Participants will study:

  • the ways God has asked us to care for the earth; 
  • the perspectives of those who are currently affected by the realities of climate change;
  • the meaning of climate justice and the perspective and priorities it requires; and
  • the rich resources available in the life of the Church and beyond to address these concerns.
Our 2016 Study Leaders were asked to tell a little bit about themselves.  Here is what they had to say.

Debra Gerrish, Study Leader-
Climate Justice

I became a member of United Methodist Women (Douglas Community United Methodist

Church) in 1980 and attended my first annual meeting that same year. I have learned the majority of my leadership skills in United Methodist Women over the years. Through opportunities like National Seminar and annual meetings I was taught to reach out and serve others better.   I have served as president of our unit for many years.  I served as Social Action Coordinator for our Alaska United Methodist Women from 2010-2014.  This is where my heart is and I started as a teen doing Hunger Walks.
I have worn many hats over the years. I’m a lay speaker and have served as our church’s lay delegate to conference. RID Alaska of Child Abuse (Prevention and resources for those dealing with child abuse.) was one of my passions from 1999 to 2013.  I served on the board of directors of the Alaska Women’s Network at the time it was started and for many years after that.  A hat I wear I really enjoy is being a docent at the Alaska State Museum. In the past I served on both the Juneau Mental Heath Board and was president of Church Women United (Juneau) for four years.

Things I enjoy doing are hiking, photography, reading and learning about history anywhere. Three things I’m looking forward to are a much needed vacation, spending time with my two grandchildren and my husband's retirement. 

Janice Nightingale, Study Leader- 
The Bible & Human Sexuality
I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I moved to Alaska in 1975 when my dad took the job of executive director with Alaska Children’s Services, now known as AK Child and Family.  It’s a classic story:  girl (me) meets boy (Joe).  Love-Marriage-Baby Carriage.  Joe and I moved to Nikiski in 1983 with our daughter, Erin, and son, Joe.  We now have two amazing children-in-law (Jeannie and Jason) that I couldn’t love more if they had given me stretch-marks, and six awesome grandchildren.
We’ve attended North Star UMC for over 32 years.  I’ve been involved with UMW since it began there over 30 years ago. 
I enjoy reading (thank goodness, there was a ton of reading for Mission u training), volunteering, and my favorite, hanging out with the grandkids.  

We welcome these fine leaders and anticipate learning and experience much during our Mission u events!