In the introductory post to this wonderful destination on the World Wide Web, I told you I was a Methodist. I am a Methodist for many reasons, not least because I grew up in the Methodist Church and I’m comfortable there. That’s why, when I decided to come back to church after a long absence, my first choice was the local UMC. Now, I could tell you the reason had deep theological roots and that would be kinda true. But, there are other reasons, too. A few of them are listed below.
- We invented grape juice._ Okay, we didn’t really invent grape juice. But, a former Methodist minister did come up with a pasteurization process that kept the juice from fermenting. In the 1860’s, the General Conference decided that only the “in all cases the pure juice of the grape be used in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.” Problem was that “pure juice of the grape” had a tendency to ferment and that was bad because the Discipline said “unfermented wine only should be used at the sacrament.”. So, Thomas Bramwell Welch (dentist and former pastor) discovered a method of pasteurization that stopped fermentation. He got local churches to use it, calling it “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine”. His son’s eventually formed the Welch’s Grape Juice Company and the rest is history.
- Church year is color-coded._ The United Methodist Church is a curious blend of high and low church styles. We use more ritual than some other denominations, while eschewing the Roman Rite and remain stubbornly Protestant. One of those high church things is using colors to denote the liturgical year. Why is this a good thing? I have no earthly idea, but I like it. For that reason alone, it makes the list.
- You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized._ In some churches, if you want to get baptized, you have to get wet. I don’t mean a little wet, I’m talking dunked under water wet. Go to many Baptist churches and, somewhere in there, you’ll find a baptistery, a pool specifically for baptism by immersion. If it’s a small church, they’ll go to a local river, pond, lake, etc. to do this. The preacher takes you out in the water, intones something along the lines of “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” and lays you back under the water. In the Methodist Church, we just sprinkle some water on your head in honor of the ancient practice. Church really shouldn’t entail a change of clothes.
- We’ll speak to you in the liquor store._ Let’s face it, almost all of us enjoy a drink now and then. But, as we all know, good Christians don’t admit that. In fact, a lot of them will deny they like a nip and look down on you for saying you do. There are some Methodists like that, too. But, I knew I was in the right place when I ran into my pastor’s husband at the grocery store and he had two of the biggest bottles of wine I’d ever seen. I snuck up behind him, pointed at the bottles and whispered “What you do if the bishop saw that?” He looked me in the eye and said “Invite him over for a drink”.
- Worship service isn’t an aerobic workout._ If you’ve ever been to a Catholic mass, you know what I’m talking about. Stand up, sit down, genuflect, kneel, get some holy water, kneel again, go down for communion, sit back down, stand up again, etc. Geez, I’m tired just writing about it.
- We’re done with church in time to see the game._ Garrison Keillor put it best when he said ” A minister has to be able to read a clock. At noon, it’s time to go home and turn up the pot roast and get the peas out of the freezer.” Don’t get me wrong, I love church, but those marathon sermons that go on till 1:30 or 2:00 are a bit over the top. Sunday is the only day I can be lazy without feeling guilty and the day is only so long. So, wind it up, pastor.
- Covered dish dinners._ I’ll grant that this may be a Southern thing more than just a Methodist thing, but you can’t have a church gathering without something to eat. And, in every church all over the world, there are little old ladies that don’t have anyone to cook for anymore and they bring in the most amazing food for these occasions. And, they more than make up for the obligatory bucket of KFC and the disgusting looking pasta salad that someone always brings.
- Real bread at communion instead of those weird little wafers._ I don’t know about your church, but at mine the communion host is always a loaf of King’s Hawaiian Bread. Which is amazing. The communion wafers look (and taste) like styrofoam. You tell me which is better
- We get to decide if we want to be saved._ Methodists are Wesleyans, which is an offshoot of Arminianism. Short version of Arminianism is that people get to choose whether or not to accept salvation from God, while Calvinism says that God chooses who He will save. That’s an extremely simplistic view of an extremely complex concept, but it’s okay because I’m not being very serious today.
- We have metaphors and acronyms for everything._ We have the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (no, that’s not a football play involving 4 passes), Wesley’s house metaphor, acronyms like ZOE project, UMCOR, MERCI Center and I could go on. I think Methodist seminaries have a class on all the things like this that a pastor needs to know about.
Like I said, that’s just some of the things I like about the United Methodist Church. There are some things I’m not so thrilled about, too. But that’s a post for another day.