Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Showing items filed under “Allee Willcox”

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father’s Day weekend, Dads! Whether you are a Dad by blood or a dad by choice, a dad to your children, or to members of your community, we’re grateful for the way your Fatherhood can mirror the love of God. We know that just as with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is not the easiest holiday for all of us. If today is difficult because you are missing your dad, or you have an estranged relationship with your father or your children, or you have lost a child, our hearts are with you. We give thanks for a loving parent God who walks with us in these difficulties. Know that you are not alone.

Our relationships with our “families of origin” are often the places where we learn how best to approach the world and others- for better and for worse. This is certainly true of my life. I am grateful for the ways that both my mom and dad and my relationships with them, have taught me about relating to the world. As I thought about Father’s Day, I reflected with gratitude on the person my father is. My dad and I are incredibly similar. We are both passionate, sensitive, opinionated people. (We even look the same- see below!)

My dad is incredibly outgoing and has never met a stranger. He is a lover of food and coffee and has a deeply compassionate heart. I used to unconsciously twirl my shoes with my toes, just as he would. The similarities run deep! Most of the things I’ve inherited from my dad, I count among my strengths. I am grateful to share strong genetics and these great qualities with him. But our similarities can sometimes turn small misunderstandings into big conflicts when our sensitivity and opinionated natures get the best of us!

When I step back and realize how similar my dad and I are, I can reflect with empathy on our common goals and shared love. This process of conflict and reorientation through empathy has taught me a lot about being a good friend, roommate, and pastor! When I step back and react with empathy to a difficult situation, I’m reflecting on the healthy things I’ve learned from my dad and in my family of origin. Being in a relationship with others, including our own family, even in difficulty, can help us be better Christ-followers.

This is the message that Paul has for the Ephesians in our verses for this Sunday. While the Ephesian church was healthy, it was not perfect. There were certainly conflicts that had arisen among their membership. Throughout the book, Paul is urging them towards unity, but also unity through empathy. As they reflect on the grace they have been given, they can offer others grace in their imperfection, too.

This weekend, we’ll hear a practical message about sharing this grace in conflict. But this is not the only place our empathy can extend. Empathy can help us live as better conflict managers, but also as better neighbors.

Tomorrow our country will celebrate Juneteenth, which is now a national holiday marking the emancipation of slaves in the state of Texas on June 19th, 1865. While the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1st, 1863, slaves in Texas did not hear about it until June 19th, two and a half years later. For many African Americans, June 19th is a holiday of freedom and celebration, representing a time of long-awaited rescue.

If this is not our cultural experience, we can reflect with empathy on times that our families of origin have experienced freedom or the feelings we may have about the Fourth of July. This week, the Senate voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and one we can all learn about as we continue to make our world a place of freedom for all.

Conflict, neighboring, and family of origin relationships all take a lot of grace and empathy. So, this weekend, I challenge you: lean into your empathy muscles as we celebrate Juneteenth and Father’s Day, and as we explore the nature of conflict together with Paul.

See you Sunday,
Pastor Allee

Posted by Allee Willcox with

Paul's Open Letter to the Church

The internet loves a good “open letter.” Open letters are public writings to one or more individuals, sometimes funny, sometimes serious. An open letter is an opinion piece, a theological treatise, or a call to action disguised as correspondence. Sometimes open letters take unique forms like “rap diss” tracks or a video message posted to Tik Tok or Facebook. They are always more about the writer and their beliefs than the reader. I sometimes wonder if it would be better phrased as just a blog post or an article, as the open letter implies a rhetorical question to its audience and reader. I don’t think most expect open letters to garner a response unless another open letter or diss track is in order.
Some open letters are helpful in their universality. Other open letters should be private letters, as they are probably just talking to the intended reader, not the rest of us.
One of my favorite practices as a part of the pastoral team at Suntree UMC is writing our weekly E-Letter to you all. It is a place to share thoughts about our worship that don’t make it into the sermon and to otherwise communicate important messages, too. You could say this is an open letter; everyone is welcome to read it, although it is just a function of our ministry together at Suntree UMC. There will be language that those who are completely outside of our circles don’t understand; there will be conversations that are meant to be “kitchen table” instead of “front porch” information that makes their way into the content of these communications.
This week in worship, we will begin a series on the Book of Ephesians called, “Immeasurably More.” This is based on the verse from Ephesians 3:20-21 where the writer talks of God’s desire to do abundantly more than we could ask or imagine. The Book of Ephesians is practical in its instruction because it, too, is like an open letter. It is written to a group of churches, probably, so it reflects the writer’s (scholars go back and forth about whether it is really Paul or not) theological stance and universal instruction to us all. It is the letter that has the least amount of “kitchen table” conversation, meant only for the church at hand, and is helpful in its practicality.
This week, we will consider Immeasurably More Reconciliation as we read Ephesians 2:8-22. Through God’s gift of salvation, we are brought into one body of reconciliation, growing into a temple of the Holy Spirit. This is only possible because God has given us this gift of adoption and salvation. Jews and Gentiles, men and women, from all tribes and tongues in our world are adopted into Christ’s love and a part of the building of God’s temple within our world.
One of the best ways that we see God’s reconciliation at work in our church is in the long relationship that we have with our sister churches in Cuba. For over 20 years, the Cuba Mission Team has been in a relationship with these sister churches, breaking down the walls that the political forces of our country and Cuba would raise. They have braved all kinds of obstacles to make sure that our sisters and brothers in Cuba have the resources that they need. Our sisters and brothers in Cuba regularly pray for the work that we do here at Suntree UMC. Through this mutual relationship, established in the adoption that we have in Jesus Christ, we have cared for one another over decades, and the work continues. We will hear on Sunday the needs that the Cuban people have and the way that the rest of our congregation can be involved in financial support and encouraging our Cuba mission team and our Cuban sister churches.
When we submit ourselves to the grand, abundant gift of Christ’s salvation, the natural step that follows is abundant, resurrection reconciliation in our lives and the lives of our neighbors. I’m so excited to celebrate the work the Cuba Mission team does and to think together about God’s gracious abundant love to us this Sunday!
See you then,
Pastor Allee
Posted by Allee Willcox with

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