Pastor Henry's Memo

June 2019

First Methodist Conference -- 1744

For several of the last weeks an historical fact has been the focus of this memo.  For those who do not have precise memories, the Pastor's Memo has addressed the Battle of Waterloo, the first anti-slavery society meeting, the brothers who launched the first hot air balloon, and the liberation of Dachau.  Anniversaries of events and personages fall with some regularity on the calendar.  Every day marks some kind of event from the past and only a very perceptive historian will notice or even care.  This week that historian, if the word applies, is me.  Just having returned from our Indiana UMC Annual Conference last week, I was reminded the very first Methodist Conference convened in London on the 25th of June, 1744.  Mr. Wesley, his brother Charles, and four others met and quickly determined to invite others of Mr. Wesley's itinerant preachers to join them.  The record of their meeting provides us with this bit of information: "In June 1744, I desired my brother and a few other clergymen to meet me in London, to consider how we should proceed to save our own souls and those who heard us.”   This first convening, of what would become an Annual Conference, considered its principle purpose for gathering the saving of their souls.  What a laudable endeavor.  What's more, they wanted to set before The Society three specific notions.  What should Methodist preachers teach, how should they teach it, and how to regulate "doctrine, discipline, and practice."  I must say, some of this we did, after a fashion, at Indianapolis.  But I do not think Mr. Wesley and his society of Methodists would recognize our Conference without some very detailed commentary.  Look, I know nothing stays the same over a 275 year span of time.  We Methodists have done our share of changing.  Needless to say, we may be in for some more rather huge changes in our near future.  My prayer will continue to be what was present at that first gathering, namely, a concern for saving our souls and ordering our doctrine, discipline, and practice in such a way as to reflect the love of God for all people.  That would be an apt reason for gathering preachers and laity once a year.



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Our Days are Numbered

History is littered with the victors and the vanquished.  One who knew the ecstasy of adulation was Napoleon Bonaparte.  As the preeminent French celebrity general he brought glory to France and caused much of Europe to quake.  The occasion for this memo is Waterloo.  It was on the 18th of June, 1815, Napoleon lost the battle to the Duke of Wellington.  A week later Napoleon abdicated and was soon exiled to Saint Helena.  The greatest and most successful military leader of the 19th Century was reduced to being a prisoner on an isolated island over 1200 miles off the coast of Africa in the South Atlantic.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  How ironic is it that it was Napoleon who was quoted saying, "The world's graveyards are filled with indispensable men."  He became such graveyard fill on the 21st of May, 1821, only six years after he met his Waterloo.   The reminder for all of us who live is that all of us will die.  All of us will become "graveyard fill."  It matters not our fame or fortune; our infamy or poverty.  Those whom history remembers as villains and scoundrels (and worse) find their resting place under clods of dirt.  Neither are our heroes and heroines immune from the toll time will take on their being.  Our days are numbered.  Our time is limited.  "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)



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Ending Slavery

It was on the 12th of June, 1840, the World's Anti-Slavery Convention first met in London, England.  Delegates primarily from the United States, England, and Ireland gathered with like minded representatives from across the Western World to bring to bear what pressure they could muster to end the slave trade.  Nearly 180 years later slavery still exists across the globe.  Whether it's the caste system in India or economic exploitation in Malaysia or indentured servant hood practiced in many countries today, slavery is alive and well.  What makes this form of human depravity so despicable is the abuse of children.  The world trade in children by sex-traffickers is far more widespread than the general public is aware.  The three most widely traded commodities in the world are drugs, weapons, and humans.  International cartels operate and maintain "trade routes" for the exploitation and even the purchase of children for sexual use.  Slavery is a very, very old practice.  Evidence of it has been found as far back as 11,000 years; about the time agriculture replaced the hunter-gatherer life style.  Enough history.  The scourge of slavery still plagues the human family.   Perhaps some one or two 2020 presidential candidates might take up the cause of abolishing slavery.  That would surely set him or her apart from the rest of the flock/herd/crowd.  Who knows what might come?  Might change my vote.



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Rise Above it All

Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier were in the business of making paper in the middle of 18th Century France.  They perfected a process for manufacturing what was considered "transparent paper."  Don't ask me about the details of said "transparent paper."  However spectacular was such an addition to paper making, it did not compare to the other invention they introduced to the world.  The brothers launched the first hot-air balloon on December 14, 1782.  On June 4, 1783, in Annonay, France, they demonstrated their new invention by floating a cloth covered paper craft more than a mile across the country side at an altitude reaching over 6,200 feet.  Their balloon rose higher than a mile and was safely landed.  So much for the history lesson.  Suffice it to say, human-engineered flight has progressed over the two centuries since the Montgolfier brothers pumped hot air into a big bag.  Hot-air balloon rides are now offered to adventurous souls who want to rise above the hustle and bustle of earth-bound life and experience the soundless transit "above it all."  Such a trip might be on my bucket list; that is, if my life insurance is not in arrears.  Imagine the bliss of the kind of silence only the sky can offer.  Imagine, further, being able to see the earth's horizon in every direction.  If only life were as uncomplicated as being able to "rise above it all."  No worries.  No duties.  No traffic.  No stress.  How many "no's" am I allowed?  Such idyllic longings are likely to be felt in every human heart.  Alas, only our daydreams provide escape from the reality of living.  "Rising above it all" isn't possible, nor is it advisable.  Human interaction and work and sacrifice and accomplishment and rocking grandchildren and taking a Sunday afternoon nap...These are only some of the worthwhile benefits of staying grounded.  I might just check to make sure my insurance is in force.  Just in case.



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