BY REV. PATTYE HEWITT
The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church states: “The church as the community of the new covenant has participated in Christ’s ministry of grace across the years and around the world. It stretches out to human needs wherever love and service may convey God’s love and ours. The outreach of such ministries knows no limits.” (Section 128; page 95)
It has been said that the people of The United Methodist Church are ‘fence-sitters’ – which is to say that we don’t stake our doctrine in any one place and we shy away from making hard and fast decisions about what it means to serve and follow and trust Jesus Christ. While I use to take this as an insult (as I believe this is how it was meant), I am much more inclined to celebrate and claim that we are indeed disciples who journey this life of faith in the middle position of holding truth in one hand and grace in the other. This is why I love our denomination! For if God knows no limits of his loving grace at work in the world, then who am I – who are we to place limits on reaching seeking and searching people with the invitation to experience new life in Jesus’ name?
Did you know that in some faith traditions, persons are denied the sacrament of baptism for themselves and their children based on family dynamics?
The United Methodist tradition holds to the belief that every human life is of sacred worth and the God’s love extends to all. “There are no conditions of human life (including age or intellectual ability, race or nationality, gender or sexual identity, class or disability) that exclude persons from the sacrament of baptism” (from By Water and the Spirit).
Recently a family contacted our church asking if we would extend the sacrament of baptism to their twin sons. They weren’t members of First United Methodist Church, so I asked if they had an affiliation with another church. “Well yes…at least we did.” Then they went on to tell their story….
Robert actively serves our country in the Army. His wife Jessica, and twin sons Anthony and Alexander, live 7 hours away in Fort Rucker, Alabama where Robert is stationed. Although Robert is now strong and healthy, he is a cancer survivor. Having gone through rounds of chemo treatments, he was left unable to conceive children. He and Jessica made the decision to go the route of in vitro fertilization. After the successful pregnancy and birth of Anthony and Alexander, they approached their own faith tradition, seeking baptism – to be initiated in the family of God. The answer was one they did not expect – a resounding “no”. The denomination’s teaching prohibits in vitro fertilization, maintaining that ‘a child has the right to be conceived in the marital embrace of his parents’. The church views the child as a gift from God, not a right. As the sacrament of baptism was denied their infant boys, the couple was faced with the challenge of finding another way.
I cannot begin to express how broken my heart was to hear that loving and caring parents asked for God’s unconditional grace and love to be bestowed upon their babies, only to be told “no”.
Thankfully, our United Methodist tradition holds to the belief that every human life is of sacred worth and that God’s love extends to all. On July 18th of this year, those two beautiful boys were initiated into God’s family at the font of First United Methodist of Baton Rouge. It was a beautiful service of love, of faith and of celebrating God’s grace that has come and continues coming in Jesus Christ.
The United Methodist understanding of baptism says: “Baptism is a sacrament. In a sacrament, God uses common elements – in this case, water – as means or vehicles of divine grace. Baptism is administered by the church as the Body of Christ. It is the act of God through the grace of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is the act of God. Baptism is a gift to the human family. United Methodists liberally share the baptismal waters with any person who seeks it for their own lives or those entrusted to their care.
Did you know that in addition to visiting the hospitalized, FUMC makes an average of 75 home visits per month? These visits are conducted by both lay volunteers and staff and often include Holy Communion.
Did you know that our pastors conduct regular worship services and Bible studies at retirement and nursing facilities throughout Baton Rouge? At FUMC, we celebrate God’s love by caring for and visiting those who are no longer able to come to church. We love because He first loved us.
BY CAROL MITCHELL LACOUR AND LYNN MITCHELL FULCO
Our dad, Virgil Oliver Mitchell (Mitch), was a lifelong resident of Baton Rouge and a long-time member of First United Methodist Church. When we were little girls going to Catholic schools and churches, our dad would always go to the Methodist Church. We never knew that in his older years, the Methodist church would become such a support for him. As he aged, he reached out to the church and the church responded. When he moved from his home to Williamsburg Senior Living Community, he maintained his connection to the church by attending the First United Methodist services at Williamsburg. There he met Rebecca Mitchell [no relation] from the Congregational Care Ministry. Rebecca visited our father on numerous occasions over several years. They built a rapport and he looked forward to seeing her. She often left prayer cards and notes for our family to enjoy, and she sent him flowers on his birthdays.
When his health declined, Rebecca Mitchell always found our dad as he moved between the retirement home, the hospital, several rehabilitation hospitals, and finally a nursing home. Even when we forgot to let the church know that he was moving, she made sure that she maintained contact. She prayed with and for him, and her visits brightened many of his days.
When our father passed away in August, Rebecca and other members of First United Methodist Church offered us support and prayers. She had comforted him for years and, when he was gone, she comforted us. Our dad’s faith was important to him, and the Congregational Care Ministry allowed him to stay connected to the church even when he could no longer attend services, and to have peace in his last days. We are very grateful for the prayers, the services they provided and the time Rebecca spent with him.
Did you know that in some faith traditions Holy Communion – the Lord’s Supper – is reserved and shared exclusively for those who belong to their particular faith tradition or church?
The United Methodist tradition believes “The invitation to the Table comes from the risen and present Christ . . . [and] all who respond in faith to the invitation are to be welcomed” (from This Holy Mystery).
BY REV. PATTYE HEWITT
Last month I had the blessing of uniting a couple in holy matrimony here at the church. This couple requested that we celebrate Holy Communion during the ceremony. However, they shared that many people from both sides of their extended families would not partake in the sacrament due to their being of another faith tradition. My heart was saddened by these ‘hard and fast’ doctrinal stances, but realized that these people are being faithful to what they know and believe.
The wedding day came, the vows had been spoken and the rings exchanged. It was time to celebrate Holy Communion. As we went through the invitation and liturgy, I spoke those sacred words over the table of abundant grace: “This is not my table – it is not First UMC’s table, but it is the Lord’s. He is the host, he invites and he welcomes all to receive. You who are gathered here may not belong to this church or any church – but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you hear God calling you and welcoming you to be sharers of this meal – of God’s unending and unmerited love in Jesus Christ.” It was amazing to see that most all in attendance came forward to receive the gifts of bread and the cup…even the parents of the bride. After the wedding, the mother came to me (one I knew was of a tradition that forbid her to receive the elements of Holy Communion for another denomination) and said “I just couldn’t stay away…I had to get up out of my seat and receive the blessed gift of Christ.” I was blown away! “Thank you Lord!” “Thank you for being present here in this place and for prompting your people to hear and respond to your invitation of grace.”
I continue to be overwhelmed with thanksgiving for my ministry and that which we share as disciples of Jesus in the United Methodist Church. While to some being ‘fence-sitters’; being those who live in ‘the middle’ might look like only being ‘half-way in’ and ‘indecisive in the matters of faith’, I know better. I’ve seen lives transformed because barriers to God were not erected, but dismantled. I’ve witnessed the redemptive power of Christ take an empty shell of a person and make them into a beautiful butterfly. I’ve listened to stories about how the Holy Spirit spoke to someone through an open table; through baptismal waters; through becoming members of a church that doesn’t insist on pre-requisites in order to be a part of community – of the Body of Christ.
Yes, I celebrate the gift United Methodism offers to the world…of not knowing any limits on grace; of not attempting to draw a line of ‘who is in and who is out’; of throwing the doors of the church wide open for any and all who seek life, and healing, and restoration. And we hear the Lord Jesus speak into our lives: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” John 3:17.