Bringing God’s Love to Reality

I traded a pair of new mittens for a poem down on 1st Avenue near Pike and have been hearing the rhythm of Mark, the young poet, ever since. He really was remarkable at being able to come up with a rhyming rap when you gave him four words to use…

Many of you have reported giving out our Outreach Bags for Family Works in Wallingford (with their socks, snacks, and other little items for life on the streets) and you’ve spoken of your wonder at how important a simple pair of socks can be to our neighbors trying to keep warm in this rainy season. Some of you are spending nights at one shelter or another, being touched by the stories and difficulties for folks having to get moving early every morning… It seems we are making a point of taking the effort to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are struggling with housing and I know a number of us are being touched, challenged, and awakened by this experience. Who are these individuals? What will help them get into a safe, warm and dry shelter that speaks of hospitality and hope?

We at WUMC have chosen for our missional theme for 2016 to be in the area of housing and ‘a place for everyone.’ Our goal is to address the problem at many levels, both justice and mercy… How can we advocate for better relief from homelessness here in Seattle and King County? How can we get to know these neighbors– not just for their struggles but for their talents and abilities, as well? How can we share our resources in a way that makes a real difference?

I pray with deep hope that we at WUMC can be a powerful, active force for those seeking shelter this coming year. For I suspect it matters a lot to the One we follow; the Christ, who knew well this concern – whose first day were in manger, for there was room in the inn, who spent his early life as a refugee in Egypt, and whose adult days were as a wandering teacher, with a rock for a pillow… but mostly because of Christ’s great love for all God’s suffering children.

Blessed New Year, my dear Partners in Ministry!
Pastor Ann Berney

Suffering, Compassion, and the English Language

Barb Bash offered this reflection on her volunteer work recently at Sunday worship:

I teach English to a man twice a week, and about a year ago when I first started meeting with him I noticed he used the word “suffering” a lot.

For instance he said, “A woman at the park threw Frisbee and it hit my son. Accident. She kept saying ‘Oh, sorry, sorry’—she was really suffering.”

Once when I mentioned to him that I was really bad at some things—like dancing—he nodded sympathetically and said, “Oh, yes, you suffer!”

After a while I figured out that he understood that “to suffer” means “to feel bad,” and because there are so many ways to feel bad, there were many ways to suffer.

I must say though, the whole thing made me feel differently about suffering—I suddenly saw that everyone suffers. I became aware of the many small aches we all carry around all the time: emotional and social pain, feelings of regret, meanness, sadness, inadequacy—we do all suffer. This idea made me feel more at one with my fellow suffering humans. Instead of a divide between those who don’t suffer and those who do, I felt that I was a part of a world of suffering souls, and each person’s individual suffering then becomes a matter of kind, and degree.

Now, some of us certainly suffer a lot. I stay overnight at a homeless shelter twice a month, and the guests at the shelter—they lack a home, yes, but also are sometimes hungry, wet, or cold, often have health problems, are estranged from their family, and they have little support or encouragement from friends. Not to mention all the other kinds of human pain that I mentioned before, that we all carry around. So, I want to be compassionate—and “compassion” means to “suffer with”—

so, how do I do that, exactly?

Well, teaching English without formal training as I am, I’ve had to teach myself about English grammar, and so I’ve been doing some reading. One interesting essay I read said that, “The English sentence demands a subject, even when there is none.” For instance, to describe the weather these past two months, the past continuous verb “was raining” would be perfectly clear to us all, but grammar demands we say, “It was raining.” It. Nothing happens in an English sentence without something, or someone, doing it. Every effect demands an agent, a cause—someone to blame.

The essay also said that doing is important in English. When we meet someone, we say “How do you do?” and then we ask, “What do you do?” On the altar, we say, “I do!” — And when we see a problem, we look for something to do about it. Our grammar compels us to act in a linear way: effect/cause, problem/solution. This framework can be useful, but it’s NOT a universal way of seeing the world—not even necessarily Christian (Jesus, after all, didn’t speak English) and the essay argues that the grammar of our English language reinforces linear thinking and actually changes the way we think and act.

So sitting at the homeless shelter on a morning, having coffee with a fellow suffering person, there’s that impulse to find the cause of the suffering. Who or what is to blame for this person’s situation? Likewise, there’s a temptation to search for a solution to their problems—suggest a fix, a better course of action. But these linear impulses are not the most compassionate acts.
A weary soul embarking on another hard day might just need a simple moment of safety, warmth, and comfort. So, I stifle my questions and suggestions. Instead I offer up an undemanding silence. Oh, stories bubble up within it sometimes; I might hear about hard times, big plans, small disappointments—but often, morning’s quiet instead.

The profound thing I have discovered is, that it is in this small quiet moment, that a space is made for the presence of Christ. Here we are, two people—two suffering souls—drinking coffee, remarking on the rain, and God sits with us! Jesus knew how to heal with a bit of bread, a touch to the eyes, by calling someone by their own name. And in that friendly threesome, I discover that Christ heals us both together, my own small sufferings also, and we both walk away changed and warmed by the moment. That’s compassion.

So, today my prayer for All-Of-Us-Who-Suffer is that we seek out compassionate moments with other suffering souls, and that we too may discover Christ sitting there with us.

Immanuel, Alleluia, Amen!

January Make It, Do It, Talk About It

Make It: #IsItReasonable Poster

If you have not already heard, a grand jury decided to press no charges against Timothy Loehmann and Franklin Garmback, Cleveland police officers who shot and killed twelve-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014.

As an adult, I cannot make sense of this injustice or stomach the reality of the world we live in. As someone who works with children, I am often at a loss when I try to explain the world our young people are growing into.

The Yale Black Law Student Association and  the Yale Law School Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild created the #IsItReasonable Website. While asking “Is it reasonable to use force against children?”, they invited children from the Cleveland area to create their own responses:




Some images are haunting. Some are hope-filled. I invite you to share all of the photographs with a young person in your life and make your own posters with the hashtag #IsItReasonable, or create a Black Lives Matter sign for a window in your home.

Do It: Finger Labyrinth

Image from

In the middle of the chaos that comes with starting a new year (going back to school after break, readjusting to work schedules, etc), it’s nice to have a calm tool for meditation.

Simply print the Finger Labyrinth above and encourage a young person in your life to trace the trail with their finger, experiencing God through tactile prayer.

Talk About It: Valleys & Mountains of 2015

Some of these questions were already shared on Sunday in the Young Listeners’ bulletin. These are simply some ideas to reflect on the past year as we enter into the new one:

  • What was a valley (hard, not-fun, challenging time) for you in 2015?
  • What was a mountain (exciting, clear, life-giving time) for you in 2015?
  • What was a valley for your family?
  • What was a mountain for your family?
  • A valley and mountain for the world?

Happy New Years!




Advent & Christmas at WUMC

There are many ways to celebrate Advent and Christmas here at WUMC. These events will be published in the bulletin and weekly email, but please feel free to use this page as a reference as you plan during a busy month. All are welcome to any of these events.

  • Spiral Service (Dec. 4th, 7:00PM)

Come walk the spiral of greens illuminated by candles. Music, quiet, and prayer fill this evening.

  •  Christmas Caroling/Instrumental Party (Dec. 5th, 11:00AM)

Musicians of all ages and abilities are welcome to come sing Christmas songs. Bring an instrument and a music stand if you have them; sheet music will be provided, and is suitable to all levels of play. 

  • All Ages Winter Craft Night, Potluck, and Movie (Dec. 10th, 5:00PM)

Kids, families, and everyone in between are invited to come make crafts, enjoy a meal, and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” together. This event is especially friendly for pre-K kids.

  • Evening of Silent Prayer (Dec. 11th, 7:00PM-9:00PM)
The sanctuary will be lit with candles for an evening of silent reflection and prayer. Come at anytime.
  • Red Vine Theater Holiday Fest (Dec. 12th, 6:00PM)

Red Vine will screen the 1934 film “Babes in Toyland.” Come at 6:00PM for the Burrito Bar (bring something burrito-y to share) and the movie at 7:00. Holiday treats are also welcome!

  • Children’s Christmas Pageant (Dec. 13th, 10:00AM)

WUMC kids will be presenting the Christmas story for us during worship. To be involved with the production, contact Hannah (

  • Longest Night Service (Dec. 18th, 7:00PM)

Search for light in the darkness of the winter season. Celebrate hope, lament, and the mystery of Advent and Christmas at this service.

  • Choir Sunday (Dec. 20th, 10:00AM)

The WUMC choir will rouse us with songs and Benjamin Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols” during Sunday worship. A festive and beautiful way to celebrate the season.

  • Christmas Eve Service (Dec. 24th, 7:30PM)

This service of lessons, stories, and candles brings us all to the mystery of Christmas.

  • Christmas Day Worship (Dec. 25th, 10:00AM)

Gather with friends and family to welcome the Christ child to our midst and to celebrate the wonder of Emmanuel, God With Us.