In May of this year, I started a new job at The Upper Room. After years and years of editing, I accepted the job of Director of Prayer and Upper Room Worship Life. The introverted part of me is still adjusting to the change — working with people more than words has been a big change.
A central part of my job is planning and hosting The Upper Room’s weekly worship services. The organization has been holding weekly services for staff since the chapel was built in the 1950’s. These days, we welcome each week staff from Upper Room, Discipleship Ministries, Higher Education and Ministry, and guests from the Nashville area and from around the world.
I’m grateful to have this opportunity to live out my calling to create liturgy. Some days, I’m amazed I get to do this job. Other days, I’m terrified that this is now my job. I guess that means I’m in the right place.
If you are coming to Nashville, join us on Wednesdays at 10:45 in The Upper Room Chapel. 1908 Grand Avenue, Nashville, TN 37212.
I sit and write,
Preparing to go home
To the place of my birth, my nurturing,
To Oklahoma, landscape of my heart.
Big sky and brilliant sunsets
Red soil and scouring wind.
Land that nurtured me and my kin.
Bless my planning, fingers on computer keys.
Bless the hosts who prepare, who welcome me.
Bless the friends of old and friends to come.
Bless our coming together,
Our hearts and minds.
Bless our eyes, our ears,
Our spirits joined together
In worship, music, prayer,
In talking and listening,
In love and fellowship.
Bless my coming home.
Oklahoma, I’m coming home. I’d love to see you.
Friday, March 24, 7:00 p.m.
St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, Norman, OK. I’ll be speaking about my book of Celtic-style blessings and reflecting on my own Celtic roots. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Saturday, March 25, 9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, Norman, OK. Workshop on “Spiritual Tools for Survival.” For more information, or to register ($10 for lunch), contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, March 26, 8:30 and 10:50 a.m.
St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, Norman, OK. Preaching and joining in worship. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Tuesday, March 28, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Oklahoma City University. Gathering with area clergy for a time of listening. Contact me if you want more information.
Wednesday, March 29, 6:00 p.m.
Mosaic United Methodist Church, Oklahoma City, North campus. Preaching and leading worship for “Space for Grace” chapel service. A lite supper is served at 5:15 p.m. For more information, contact Mosaic at 405-751-0766.
Thursday, March 30, 3:00 -5:00 p.m.
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Tulsa, OK. Gathering with clergy from the Tulsa area for a time of listening. Contact me if you want more information.
Saturday, April 1, 2:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Mosaic United Methodist Church, Oklahoma City, OK. A workshop on Celtic spirituality. For more information, contact Mosaic at 405-751-0766.
Sunday, April 2, 10:30 a.m.
Mosaic United Methodist Church, Bishop Angie Smith Chapel on the campus of Oklahoma City University. Preaching and join in worship. For more information, contact Mosaic at 405-751-0766.
Last Sunday morning, I was preaching at Edgehill United Methodist Church, the church that’s been my home since 1979. I was filling in for our pastor, John Feldhacker, who was away that day. We celebrated Black History Month and the congregation’s history of diversity. I told stories about Edgehill saints: Marjorie Campbell, Laura McCray, and Moses Dillard. The scripture was the challenging text from Matthew 5: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
At the second service, I officiated over the Eucharist. It was the first time for me to have the honor to do so, having only recently received sacramental authority from the bishop here in the Tennessee conference. (A change in The United Methodist Discipline gave the option for deacons to be able to receive sacramental authority with permission of the resident bishop.)
It was such an honor to be able to welcome all people to the Lord’s table, to pray the prayer of Great Thanksgiving, to break the bread, to lift the cup, to share the gifts of bread and cup with the congregation.
A reporter who was at the service gathering footage for a story on Sanctuary Churches captured the moment when the bread was broken. This image ended up on the front page of the local paper on Thursday. A video from the service was in an article in USA Today on Wednesday.
Our church is just beginning to explore what it would mean if we declared ourselves a sanctuary church. It seems to be a strong calling for us. Edgehill has always responded to those who were in need of a home and I trust that we will find our way to be in ministry in a deeper way to immigrants here in Tennessee.
This week I saw, first hand, the power of social media. My photo was not just in the local paper. It showed up in papers around the country. On Saturday I was contacted by a long, lost friend in Germany who had seen the video on Facebook.
The experience has been a bit overwhelming to this introvert. I’m still recovering from my own intense experience of the “24-hour news cycle.” And … I’m grateful for the ability to share the Good News with the world about the ministry of churches like Edgehill who are listening to God’s calling and responding to the needs of the world.
Join me in May at a retreat — a 5-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation — on the topic of the Psalms. I’ll be serving as the worship leader. For more information or to register, click here.
Psalms for Life: Praying Alone and Praying Together.
May 4-9, 2015
Camp Sumatanga, Alabama
Faculty: Roberta Bondi and Don Saliers
Roberta will focus on the many ways the Psalms can be used as a tool for Christian formation and prayer. For centuries, people have turned to the Psalms for solace, guidance, renewal, celebration and so much more. The 150 Psalms reflect a wide range of experience and expression. Roberta will guide the participants into a greater understanding of the Psalms and how to use the prayerbook of our forbearers to deepen our prayer life and our walk with God.
Don will focus on the use of the Psalms in corporate settings including worship and small groups. The Psalms are both personal expression and communal formation; Don’s lectures and worship leadership will explore this relationship in a number of ways, and invite us to bring our own lives and communities of care and ministry to the Psalms throughout the week.
An Amazing Opportunity!
I can’t say how awesome it will be! With Roberta and Don teaching us in the model of the Academy for Spiritual Formation. Incredible lectures, inspiring worship, times of silence and times of fellowship. All in a beautiful setting! I hope you will consider joining us for this amazing week!
Excerpted from a sermon I preached on Psalm 23, April 20, 2010, Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, TN.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1, NRSV
I wonder — Who are your shepherds?
My dad — Charles Richardson — is one of my shepherds. I grew up watching him every Sunday morning as he led worship in little Methodist churches in Oklahoma. Because of him, I wanted to work in the church. Dad gave me many gifts–love of nature, music and photography. When I was ordained, he was here to lay hands on me in the ordination service.
Now he’s walking through the shades of death … the disease of Alzheimer’s. Every day, his world shrinks just a little bit more. When I was with him two months ago, we sat and ate dinner with my brother and Anna, my step mom. Dad said to me, “So, tell me where you have lived.”
I answered, “Well, I was born in Norman, you know, and then we moved to Mooreland.”
Dad said, “Oh, I did a stint there in Mooreland. What’s your last name?”
“It’s Richardson,” I said. (My heart was getting heavy.)
“Well,” he exclaimed, “My last name is Richardson! Who’s your daddy?”
I said, “You’re my dad! I’m your daughter, Beth.”
He turned and looked at Anna and she nodded to him and said, “That’s Beth. She’s your daughter.” He looked a little uncertain, and then he stood up, opened his arms to me and said, “I need to give you a hug.” I stood up and we hugged — a good, long embrace.
We sat back down at the table and he listened as I told him about myself: how I had been to seminary, was ordained in the United Methodist Church, worked at The Upper Room, had written a couple of books. He was delighted to know who I have become.
Our dinner conversation turned to other things, and then he turned to me and asked, “Do you know my daughter?” And I said, “Yeah. Isn’t she great?” As the rest of us chuckled, he looked at me closely and said, “Oh. You’re her, aren’t you?”
I know there are so many like him — wandering through dark valleys of illness or depression or struggle.
My dad’s shepherd is his wife. He is tethered to life through her presence. But there will soon come a time when he doesn’t know her as his wife. And he will depend on shepherds who will care for him even though he may not know who they are. It’s heartbreaking to think of him in this way, and I trust that God, the great shepherd, will tether his heart in love. That “goodness and love will pursue him every day of his life.”
I need shepherds to guide me through these days of the loss of my Dad. I need to know and trust that he will have shepherds who will take good care of him. And I want to watch for opportunities to be a shepherd to others — to serve, to love, to witness to goodness, to give comfort, to nurture hope.
I had a remarkable experience today helping lead an informal chapel service for a group of communicators from Africa. They were 12 clergy and lay from Uganda, Mozambique, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, and Zimbabwe. They were in the U.S. for a three-week training organized by Nancy Neelley, Program Manager for Central Conference Communications, UMCom. Stephen Bryant invited me to help lead singing in a morning prayer service in the chapel of The Upper Room.
The group has been together for a couple of weeks already and enjoy singing together. As soon as they found their seats in the chapel, they were ready to sing in that place. I was unprepared for what happened when I invited their informal song leader, Emmanuel, to lead us in an opening hymn. He started a song and all 12 pour out of the pews, gathered in the space in front of the altar, and began to sing, clap, dance, harmonize, praise God. Tears came to my eyes, it was so beautiful. As soon as one song wound down, someone in the back started another song. The energy was incredible.
Steven Bryant talked to the group about the mission of The Upper Room. And then, my colleague, Kathryn Kimball, the person who cares for the Chapel and Museum, gave a live interpretation of the carving. (Visitors to the chapel usually sit in the pews and listen to a recording that explains in great detail what is going on in the carving of the Last Supper. But Kathryn stood there and talked with no script.) She told about the story in the carving — the moment at The Last Supper right after Jesus has said, “One of you will betray me.” She described the different reaction of each disciple and invited us to ponder what we saw and where we might be in the story. Entering a time of reflection, I sang “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” Finally, Stephen led the group in a short discussion of what was seen and where in the story persons might have seen themselves. We finished the service with more singing, led by our congregants.
I was moved by the experience, honored to have been present, incredibly blessed to have been given the gift of music by 12 young communicators from the continent of Africa. God speed, my new friends.