This year’s Summer Lecture Series marks the fourth year of the special opportunity created to educate the church body and the public on matters related to spirituality, history, archeology, social justice, current events and other religions (among other topics) in the context of Christian faith.

Last summer, the Education Committee pivoted to meet the health guidelines of our community to host a successful webinar-only lecture series. This series brought in national speakers and attendees , and it helped the committee explore the opportunity to provide educational opportunities for both Church Street and the broader community.

Dr. Valerie Cooper, Associate Professor of Religion and Society and Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School and a 5th generation United Methodist, presented the first lecture of the series via webinar on Sunday, July 11. Her lecture, “Black Deaths Matter, Too: Doing Racial Reconciliation after the Massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC,” which tackled  how to pursue justice in a contentious age. 

You can watch a replay of the lecture here

Each of the three remaining lectures will be in-person and hybrid. In-person attendees will be provided light, individually packaged refreshments. To join any lecture virtually, please click here. 

On July 18, Rev. Dr. Alex Thompson will present “Recognizing Jesus: The Appearances of the Risen Christ in the Synoptic Gospels”. He is Professor of Religion at Tennessee Wesleyan University and serves as pastor at Niota and Cedar Springs UMC. This will be an in-person and online hybrid event. 

On July 25, Dr. Reiff will share a presentation titled, “The Eyes of Jesus Were Upon Her: The Advent of Clergy Women in Mississippi Methodism.” The story explores the remarkable transformation of a previously all-male world of ordained clergy in early 20th century Mississippi to the later part of the century when more than 50 women were serving as ministers in some capacity in United Methodism (with 44 fully ordained). He is Professor Emeritus of Emory & Henry College. 

To finish the series, Dr. Rachelle Scott will present “Buddhism Beyond Meditation Cushion: Buddhist Action in the 20th and 21st Centuries” will delve into several examples of how monastic and lay Buddhists participate in social and political activism as acts of Buddhist piety in the 20th and 21st centuries. She is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Christian education has always been a vital part of Church Street’s ministry in the community. The Education Committee works each year to ensure that educational opportunities are brought to the Church community. 

With a proximity close to the University of Tennessee, Church Street has always been home to and attracted scholars of all types. The Education Committee works each year to ensure that there are always new educational opportunities, whether through Sunday School classes or special lecture series and events. 

The Education Committee hopes to develop training for Sunday School teachers this fall in an effort to revamp how we talk about, describe and share our Sunday School classes. An update to the language surrounding Sunday School will hopefully expand Church Street’s reach to new members of the community, and to United Methodists across the world. 

To learn more about Church Street educational opportunities, visit https://www.churchstreetumc.org/education/

The Church Street chapter of United Methodist Women is a vibrant community of more than  200 women from all walks of life. Whether at an annual Bake Sale or Call to Prayer, you’ve likely come into contact with a few members. 

When the pandemic halted in person activities at Church Street last spring, UMW President Jana Davison wasn’t sure what would come next. 

“I’d never heard of Zoom. I’d never watched YouTube,” Davison says. “When we realized this was long term, I mean, you can’t just stop this stuff. I don’t remember what I saw the first time on Zoom, but it occurred to me that we’ve got to get going again.”

So, after a brief pause, meetings and events continued virtually and have since without missing a beat. 

“At first, I had a love/hate relationship with Zoom,” Davison says, “but it has been my lifeline.” 

United Methodist Women volunteer at the Fall UMW Bake Sale.

Cultivating community virtually 

Meeting on Zoom hasn’t been a lifeline for just Davison. She has seen the UMW community grow to reach not just local members, but women across the nation. 

“The really good thing is we have had people join us that never would have been with us otherwise,” Davison says. “It’s been wonderful.” 

In addition to members that aren’t normally able to join because of work and other prior commitments, Davison says that younger people have joined that may not have joined because of school. 

“I think we’ve done a really great job of trying to adapt to the situation,” organizer of book studies Susan Dominick says. “And in many ways, it couldn’t have been any better in person.” 

During one recent book review, a member who is homebound joined one of the Zoom sessions thanks to the help of a staff member at her senior living community. 

“My heart exploded,” Davison says. “We haven’t seen her in four years or so.” 

Moments like this are what encourage members like Betty Craig to search for more ways to interact with the community, whether that’s in Knoxville or across the country in Oregon. 

“Being able to reach people who can’t come means that Zoom has to continue,” Craig says. “When we’re back in person, we can record things and reach more people if they can’t participate at the time.” 

A four-week study held in October on Zoom based on the book “Finding Peace in an Anxious World” reached up to 50 attendees each week. Led by Celia Ferguson, the timely education and conversation each week shared how the spiritual disciplines of scripture and prayer can help us with our anxiety. 

“I had many people tell me ‘This is what I needed,’” Ferguson says. “It helped them find some grounding in their faith as well as gave them some tools.” 

That conversation each week reached women outside of the normal UMW audience like younger women in Knoxville and Nashville, and women in Montana and Washington D.C.

“We would never dream of extending those boundaries,” Davison says. “It’s never been physically possible.” 

Giving back to the community 

In a typical year, UMW members find themselves very active in community service, whether that is through service projects at the church and for the church’s ministries and missions, or it extends to the East Tennessee community at large. 

“If you want something done, ask United Methodist Women,” Davison says. “We send the plea out, and within minutes, my phone will blow up. That’s just how we roll.”

One plea last summer was for cloth masks to be made for Green Magnet Academy, Knox County School System’s only elementary STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) program. The school is located in a low-income area near the church. 

Last summer, the school was in desperate need of masks before the start of the fall semester, and Davison shared the assistant principal’s plea for help with members. Knowing that the UMW had women of various craft backgrounds, Davison shared the plea with the unit. 

Craig was one  of the members to respond to the plea for 350 masks; the UMW surpassed what was needed by the school. When the plea rang out again in January, Craig crafted 98 of the 267 additional masks made by UMW members; while only 150 were needed by Green Magnet at the time, the Church Street UMW nearly doubled the number, giving the school a welcome surplus at the height of the pandemic in Knox County.

“It’s truly the most talented group of people I’ve ever been around. And that is counting some really, really great companies,” Davison says. “They just don’t work better together than this group of ladies.” 

“Nobody cares to stick their hand[s] in and get them dirty,” Davison adds. “Nobody cares. It’s just amazing.” 

And just as there was no hesitation to help provide masks for the children of Green Magnet Academy, there was no hesitation to help provide the church community with a resemblance of normalcy, by offering a drive-thru bake sale option at the start of the holidays. 

The annual UMW Bake Sale is one of the most anticipated events at the church, as members race to the table to get the best goodies church members have to offer. And when the idea of a virtual bake sale was brought to the table during a virtual monthly meeting in 2020, it didn’t take long for UMW members Ann Reego, Dominick and Jean Galyon to say they’d lead the charge. 

With the help of Communications Director Katie Strangis, a sign up platform for baked goods was identified and sent to the church community with an invitation to contribute baked goods for the sale. Within a few days, Reego says she knew it would be a success. 

“The first two days, I was in tears,” Reego says. “We got so many submissions that I was drowning.” 

Once baked goods were donated, church members were able to reserve and purchase  baked goods they’d like online before coming to pick-up the weekend before Thanksgiving. In addition to baked goods, Tim Ward sold Messiah CDs from the Church Street Choir, , Rev. Jan Buxton Wade’s Table Graces Volume II was available, and the Service Circle of UMW made $800 in quilts, pillows and throws to contribute to the sale. 

With over 100 donors and 75 buyers, the bake sale fell into place and the profit was almost the same as a pre-pandemic year. 

“The Lord smiled on us, and it was a gorgeous day,” Reego says. “It was a Saturday morning with the sun shining and we just had everything dropped off and picked up.” 

Davison says that although she was nervous about the turnout, she can’t imagine the bake sale going any better. 

“If this were a corporation, if what we have done was a corporation or business, it gives me cold chills. I’d rate it higher than any business,” Davison says. “The commitment of the people is stronger than the commitment of any place I’ve worked in my career.” 

“I just have never seen anything like it and I thought I’d seen it all,” Davison adds. 

Because the fall bake sale was a resounding success, the UMW organized its Spring Gifts and Goodies Sale, just in time for Mother’s Day 2021. Again, the sale took place online, but this time it included handmade gifts from talented members of the Church Street family, including handmade cards, handcrafted wooden items, jewelry, and handmade garden decor, among others. On May 16, the UMW will lead the congregation in all worship services, in person and online, as the church celebrates the outreach and connection of this vital ministry in our community.   

If you’d like to learn more about the United Methodist Women chapter at Church Street United Methodist Church, please contact President Jana Davison. 

When Pat Bellingrath and Celia Ferguson met in conversation about the conviction they felt surrounding the treatment of Black community members in 2016, they never imagined their dream to do justice work across their church conference would come true. 

Now, the pair, along with 20 other program planners, will host a four-week Sacred Conversations on Race (COR) series for the Tennessee Valley district of the Holston Conference. 

“Conversation is the way you begin to change the world,” Ferguson says. “Conversation is how you build relationships to make the change.”

Humble Beginning

Conversation looks different than it did when the COR Leadership group met for the first time. In 2016, Bellingrath and Ferguson were joined by Stephanie Blue, Rev. Leah Burns, Sandra Dimmick, Jean Galyon and Ivee Miles-Slater around a kitchen table in discussion. 

“We heard stories that (proved) we just didn’t know how the world worked,” Ferguson says, providing “The Talk” about racism as an example. “There were incredibly difficult conversations we had. They were emotional.” 

In November 2016, about 100 people of all backgrounds and faiths attended the first COR program, sitting around tables to converse with people unlike themselves. 

Reflecting and understanding a need for more conversation, the original planning team of seven grew to 22, with a focus on eliminating racism in the larger United Methodist Church, starting with the Holston Conference. 

“Our hope is to get churches to start conversations on these issues,” Ferguson says, adding that it’s not only amongst members, but on Sunday mornings during worship, too.

“For me, this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Bellingrath adds. “It really is, to me, a cornerstone of our faith.” 

Living the Gospel

When planning the COR program, the leadership team drew from the second of the Baptismal Vows and Article IV and V of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. 

The second of the Baptismal Vows

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

Article IV. Inclusiveness in the Church — The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection. In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition.

Article V.  Racial Justice — The United Methodist Church proclaims the value of each person as a unique child of God and commits itself to the healing and wholeness of all persons. The United Methodist Church recognizes that the sin of racism has been destructive to its unity throughout its history. Racism continues to cause painful division and marginalization. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate racism, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large. The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of racial justice at all times and in all places.

COR also acknowledges the past of the church, including moments and eras the Methodist Church didn’t treat all races the same, and the times it did. 

“We have to know our history,” Bellingrath says. “We really have to acknowledge the history of the United Methodist Church.”

Rooted in history and these texts, the program also relies on the sharing of stories as a powerful way to truly understand and connect to the experiences of others. Each session of the February Sacred Conversations on Race series will include time for conversation and stories, including a night of guest speakers in Session 2. 

At the end of the program, the COR Leadership Team hopes that attendees will walk away with action steps toward biblical justice. 

“Our call is to suffer alongside those who are oppressed,” Ferguson says, adding that although it’s uncomfortable to have these conversations, it’s the cross we bear. “Even though my white skin gives me an out, my heart can’t give up.”  

Learn more and register for the Conversations on Race program here

 

Program Details:

Session 1

Tuesday, February 2, 7pm-8:30pm

Starting a sacred conversation on racism: challenges, history, how to begin, how to engage in difficult conversations and a little John Wesley. Sharing of stories and time for conversation.

Session 2

Tuesday, February 9, 7pm-8:30pm

A host of speakers will be joining us this night from Holston and other conferences to speak to racism in the UMC and why we must engage with one another to end racism in our beloved church. Time for discussion and sharing of stories.

Session 3

Tuesday, February 16, 7pm-8:30pm

Discussing white privilege and systemic racism: what these are and how they affect every aspect of our lives. Sharing of stories and time for conversation.

Session 4

Tuesday, February 23, 7pm-8:30pm

Continuing the conversation: where do we go from here and how the UMC can become the beloved community. Time for conversation, discernment and commitment.

Upcoming Project Volunteers Needed for:
  • Sweep the Music Suite! Thursday, October 3, 9-11 am — Come help us clean the music suite!  Bring your rags, buckets, cleaning supplies, vacuums and hand vacuums! Sign up with Tim or Edie.
  • Spirit Adventure Sunday School Teachers —  curriculum provided. Love of children required! Sign up with Katryn Bancroft.
  • Wesley House Tutors — The Wesley House needs your help! On weekday afternoons, dozens of students grades K-8 at the Wesley House need homework assistance as well as folks to read with them. They are particularly short of volunteers on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:00-5:00. If you would like to serve, please contact Jenny Cross at jcross@churchstreetumc.org
Ongoing Needs for Volunteers:
  • Beacon of Hope Sharing Shop — Second and Fourth Thursday of each month at Vestal UMC in South Knoxville (12 pm). Contact Dona McConnell if interested.