June 2, 2021
Dear Embry Hills UMC and friends,
Once upon a time, 16 years ago if you can believe it, I was an undergrad student pursuing a Religion degree in a small university. As part of my time there, we learned about the importance of Creeds and Affirmations of Faith. I was dubious as to their effectiveness and usefulness.
We were given an assignment: To write our own creed of our religious beliefs. It was a daunting task. While the creeds of my classmates lived close to the traditional “I believe in God the Father Almighty…” type, I was never good at (or interested in) tradition or orthodoxy. So, in that small classroom over a decade ago, I instead wrote (and then had to read aloud) a little poem as my submission for the assignment.
As I have contemplated my retirement from my role at EHUMC, I wanted to share this poem with you. If you asked me at the time, I would have said it was just an assignment. I would not have expected to be invited and challenged to live this creed out for 11 years at Embry Hills UMC with other people’s children. And I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that during a pandemic I would be called to finish this work at Embry Hills UMC by spending much of 2020 sharing my beliefs with all of you via videos recorded from a little vegetable garden in my own backyard.
Here is that poem I started 16 years ago that this congregation has given me the chance to complete over the last 11 years. I hope by sharing this poem that you can appreciate with me that we are indeed part of a story unfolding.
If my children come to me one day and ask me what they should believe in:
I will take them outside and we will lie in the grass, barefoot and staring at the sky and I will say, “Believe in this.”
“There is a sky and a ground, a place to dream dreams and a place to stand up. Deep in the grass, you can see that we are not the only critters in between the sky and the ground, and all the other critters deserve this grass as much as we do. In your life, please believe in dreaming and in standing up for your dreams. In your life, please believe in sharing the space God gave you to stand up in and dream in. In your life, please believe in hope. Hope is a word for dreaming and standing up at the same time.”
I will show them many books. I will read to them and I will say, “Believe in this: There are thousands of ideas in the world, and you have the chance to learn and grow and change. In your life, please believe in searching and journeying. In your life please believe in faith. Faith is a word for going on a search for answers and expecting to find them.”
I will tell them the story of Someone I never met but am still getting to know and I will say, “Believe in this: our stories are part of a great story that is not done yet. In your life, please believe in looking for the message that isn’t so new but is still Good. Please believe in grace. Grace is a word for love that surprises you.”
I will sing to them and let them sing to me. We will learn to hear each other. I will listen to what they have to say about all these Believing’s of mine and then I will say to them, “Believe in this: Your voice is like mine and also different. We are each part of a great choir that includes other voices. Those voices may sing differently or sing other songs. All voices make music, whether we hear it or not. Please believe in love. Love is a word for listening with your whole body to our own songs and the songs of others.”
In the garden, I will take their new little hands in my old(er) knowing hands. I will interlace my fingers with theirs and say, “Believe in this: You and I are connected in ways we can see and in ways we can’t see. There will be times to hold on and times to let go. In your life, please believe in holding on when it is time and please believe in letting go when it is time. And remember always, whether you hold on or let go, you remain held in my love and in God’s love.
I want to thank you for allowing me to fulfill this 16-year-old promise I made in this creed. I guess that’s what a creed is in many ways: a promise to uphold what we believe. I am so grateful I got the chance. Thank you for allowing me to keep these promises to God and to children. It has been an honor and a privilege. And I have learned so much about hope, faith, grace, and love by being here. Embry Hills UMC will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you.
Susannah Bales, LMFT, MDiv
Regathering Team Update:
After review of current attendance numbers, the continued decline in the numbers of cases and hospitalizations, and the improvement in the percent vaccinated, the EHUMC Regathering Team will be implementing the following updates to our in-person worship services:
- Registration will no longer be required to attend our Sunday morning in-person worship service*. We ask you to sign in as you arrive.
- Seating will be arranged in small collections of chairs, please feel free to sit in small groups. We will maintain some spacing between groups and ask for your cooperation in maintaining this spacing.
Please note that masks are still required while inside the building, and we will continue to keep you informed of new updates as these become available.
As always the Regathering Team appreciates your suggestions and your cooperation.
*Registration is still required for catered receptions following worship. Click here to register for Susannah Bales going away reception. Email Laura with any questions.