Reaching the Margins

Some of you may have noticed – I love being part of the United Methodist Church. Knowing my time and money transform into support for a retirement community in Salem, the homeless population in Portland and an orphanage in Africa, in addition to millions of folks in between, speaks to me. My heart is filled knowing we are one with all brothers and sisters.
My home church, Hillsboro First United Methodist Church (we usually drop the “first” because we’re also the “only”), recently began a project to reach the street-side men and women we drive by so often. I suspect you’ve seen the folks with the signs stating, “Will work for food. God bless you”,  “Need Money. Homeless family of four ………” or the illuminating, “Need money for beer.” Usually I offer up a short prayer for these folks and keep driving. One time, I gave a guy an orange left over from my lunch. Kindness? Not so much. I didn’t want it to roll under the seat of the car and rot. He did me a favor.
The United Methodist Church has a strong focus on marginal communities and I praise God for that in-sight. But I wonder, inside our walls, in your congregation, what do you see when you seek out the margins? Within our churches, we have the real movers and doers – thank you, Lord! – but who are those sitting by themselves on the edges? Do you see the lady with big, orange, ophthalmologist issued glasses? How about that guy in the wheel chair? He seems kind of young to be so confined. And have you ever actually seen someone as quiet as a mouse? If you don’t see them, you’ll never know they were there.
Discover the lives these “edgy” people are leading. That woman in the glasses– she’s been on dozens of Volunteers In Mission (VIM) trips, all over the world. That guy in the chair does his own hedge trimming while in his wheelchair – and occasionally rolls down the hill (not recommended). And the very quiet folks? Ask permission and gently proceed. Some stories are written in bold type but other stories take extra care to hear.
Here is a mandatory precaution - Some folks truly prefer not being in the thick of things. Those folks are often the peanut gallery, pitching in thoughts from the sidelines. These happy wiseacres are not to whom I’m referring. God love ‘em, they keep the rest of us on our toes. Their gifts and graces can and should be used to expand God’s kingdom. Just approach with caution and a sense of humor!
For many, sitting on the margin of a community can be lonely. Look into yourself. Surely there was a time you were on the outside. True loneliness is inexcusable in a healthy faith community. Loneliness, too easily, can lead to depression. Involvement in the lives of others and knowing the positive difference we can make can alleviate loneliness and remind us of the gifts we’ve been given. Shoulder to shoulder we change our communities. Hand in hand we can save each other.
Let’s make an intentional effort to know all our folks. This is a big job; it takes all of us, laity and clergy! Make a point of hearing a new life story and introduce that person to your story.  Weave your lives together through the awesome mission of our church. Together we make disciples, together we change the world.

Mary Foote
Mary Foote was elected as Conference lay Leader in 2012. She is a mom, wife, and dental hygienist. As a member at the Hillsboro United Methodist Church she is active in many areas, but has a special passion for Hispanic Ministry and the English as a second language program. Contact her at marycfoote@yahoo.com or (503)648-3072.