Editor’s Corner: God-given moments

Amy Forbus

At the United Methodist Association of Communicators annual meeting in March, I took pages of notes as I listened to reporters, pastors, bishops, social media experts, public relations professionals, fellow editors and writers sharing their experiences and expertise. (And I brought home some awards for our team!)

One thought that has stayed in my mind is something the Rev. Shawn Anglim said in a Thursday morning sermon.

Anglim serves as senior pastor of First Grace UMC in New Orleans, which hosted a half-day of our meeting. The church resulted from a post-Hurricane Katrina merger of two congregations: First UMC, an aging Anglo church, and Grace UMC, an African-American church. As Anglim told the story of how these people of God faced challenges and came together to create something new, there came a point where he cupped his hands and held them out.

“Sometimes God gives you a moment, and you have to decide what you’re going to do with it,” he said.

Since merging, First Grace UMC has cupped its collective hands to receive more moments from God. Many of these moments don’t look comfortable or easy to sort out. But because of that receptiveness, First Grace UMC has become a multiracial church, has a Hispanic/Latino community and ministry, and recently voted unanimously to become a sanctuary congregation for those dealing with immigration issues—and for anyone else who might feel unsafe for any other reason. They founded Hagar’s House, a residential ministry, and Project Ishmael, a companion ministry providing legal help for immigrant families. The church’s unlikely path is bringing abundant life.

In recent weeks, I’ve had three friends face major disappointments. One had predicted the outcome and seemed ready to shrug it off and get on with life; another expected the discouragement but still wrestled with what it might mean; and still another was blindsided with a blunt reminder that sometimes life dumps you at a crossroads with no good direction to take.

And as my friends weathered their storms, I found myself in a sanctuary in New Orleans where the water had once stood five feet high. Sunlight streamed down from high windows as the pastor held out his cupped hands and said, “Sometimes God gives you a moment, and you have to decide what you’re going to do with it.”

I can’t say for certain that my friends will re-frame their disappointments into something they recognize as God giving them a moment. And I can’t hold their moments for them or decide what to do with them. But I can draw from my own challenging experiences to offer support. I can feel the sunlight where flood waters once stood… see the new life in unlikely places… and I can open my hands to receive.

To reach me, send an email to aforbus@arumc.org.