Prayers of the People 2014.08.03

2014.08.03 Prayers of the People
written for The Gathering at Glenn UMC

“In order to see we must first admit we have been blind…”
-Rev Josh Amerson

God who leads us, loves us, and heals us,
we have come here today seeking you–
Open our eyes through music, fellowship, song, and scripture;
we pray that the Holy Spirit continues to teach us,
that we might know your healing touch,
See you at work in the world,
And be surprised and changed by encountering YOU.

We all come today with concerns:
with questions, with prayers, with longings;
we pray that your Holy Spirit would stir up in us
the courage to listen, to hear,
to challenge, and to be changed.
We pray today for people–
–people both near and far from us–
who need to experience your love and care:
for those who are fighting cancer,
sickness, and mental illness,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be your healing hands.

for people who are in the midst of
injustice, war, and violence,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be instruments of peace .

for survivors of every kind of abuse,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be compassionate, listening souls and shoulders.

for people who are caught up in systems
of oppression and economic injustice,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be agents of justice and change.

for people who are blinded and consumed
by consumption and materialism,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and live out of your abundant economy.

for people who lead our
nations and local communities,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be compassionately engaged, civil, civil servants.

and for those who appear to be near to you
and those who appear to be far off,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
And help us recognize and behold you among us.

May we, all your people, know your healing touch–
and, by the power of your Holy Spirit,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
And GO to be the servants of your kingdom
with, and to, the hurting, broken, and surprising world. Amen.

Jesus Revealed

Despite many people’s professions to know Jesus personally, a surprising number of Christians know surprisingly little about Jesus’ teachings and life found in scripture…

This Fall Semester at Emory Wesley, we’re starting a NEW SERIES: “Jesus Revealed” // Jesus was born to poor, humble, Jewish parents around 2000 years ago in the backwaters the Roman Empire. He was one of many traveling teacher/healers of the ancient near eastern world. He didn’t write down his teachings, never became wealthy or owned tons of property, and didn’t tour the world with speaking engagements. Today, some 2000 years later, billions of people believe he is the son of God and many others debate just who this Jesus really was. Despite many people’s professions to know Jesus personally, a surprising number of Christians know surprisingly little about Jesus’ teachings and life found in scripture.

SO, journey with us as we rediscover Jesus.
Wednesday Night Worship @645pm
http://emorywesley.org/worship

jesus revealed 16x9 image

The Trinity: Life Together

Last semester, the student leaders at Emory Wesley and I met and decided that we should cover some pretty exciting topics in Monday Night Worship this semester–“The Trinity,” “Race and the Church in America,” and during Lent: “The Long March to Redemption” (hooking off of Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” and other social justice influences partnered with Jesus’ walk to the cross in Lent).

For the first series on the Trinity, we’re going to be doing a 4 part series on The Trinity with staff and students Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 5.04.10 PMgiving homilies on the overall Trinity and the 3 persons of The Trinity. The students are excited about the series and are really engaging well with the topic, songs, and the way we’re addressing this theological behemoth. We’re not trying to answer all the questions, but really we’re trying to help students ask the RIGHT questions. We’re halfway through the series and things are going pretty well thus far.

Here’s the first night of the series where I preached about how the Trinity shows us how God is in relationship and we must also seek to be in relationship in a homily called “The Trinity: Life Together.”

01.13.14 Monday Night Worship // ” The Trinity: Life Together” from Emory Wesley on Vimeo.

BikeToWork (ecology/theology)

Being a bike commuter is a way to live out my ecological and theological beliefs to take care of the planet and to care for people.

I’ve always liked bike riding. From childhood to college & grad school I’ve biked occasionally for recreation, transportation, exercise, and fun. This year I’ve been able to take on a new adventure: biking to work 2 days of my 4 day work week. I’m riding a bike rented from an innovative program Bike Emorya unique partnership between Emory University & our local shop Bicycle South that encourages/equips students, faculty, and staff to learn bicycle care, make community connections, and ride safely.emory bike

I believe in bike commuting as a way to lessen my impact on the environment, improve traffic, and see the world in a more people-centric, community kind of way. Riding to work allows me to lessen the amount of greenhouse gases I’m contributing to the atmosphere, take one single-commuter car off the road, and to see different side streets, neighborhoods, people, and communities that I otherwise wouldn’t see.

We have amazing Sustainability Initiatives at Emory, which really help our community to engage in greener ways of living and enjoy the world around us. In my work as the United Methodist Campus Minister at Emory I have had so many good conversations with students about how we are called to take care of the environment as a matter of justice, stewardship, and a way to care for people. In my faith tradition we have 3 simple ‘rules’: “Do Good, Do No Harm, and Stay in the Love of God and Neighbor.” These seemingly simple rules are more complex once we take them beyond simple platitudes and ask how to live out these ideals–especially when we consider how we live, act, and use/consume resources.

Socrates got it right when he said that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” This is one of the greatest challenges for Americans: to think beyond our own needs and to consider the needs, situations, and hopes of others in our communities and in other communities in our nation and around the world. A step towards understanding the hopes and needs of others is to get to know people who are in different ages, stages, and economic places in your community. In the context of relationship we can learn much about the hopes, dreams, and ideals of others and, in turn, discover much about ourselves.

Riding a bike makes one physically and philosophically closer to world around us: there is no emory road blurredglass/metal cage to separate us, no radio to distract us, no anonymity of a car to shield us. Riding my bike to work gives me time to take in and ponder the people and scenes I’m seeing and hearing–not to mention the hills that I’m feeling in my legs. I’m thankful to be able to bike to work to better understand and appreciate the world around me. Being a bike commuter is a way to live out my ecological and theological beliefs to take care of the planet and to care for people.

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twitter bio shot 2012 3Rev. Joseph McBrayer works as Director of Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga, where he helps build community on campus to provide a place for students to think through their beliefs and put them into practice. He and his spouse live in the North Decatur area and have been a part of the Atlanta/Emory Community for the past 8 years. You may contact him at jmcbray@gmail.com or connect on twitter @jmcbray.

faithful mentors

I’m writing this post today in response to a DAY OF BLOGGING for Exploration 2013, a United Methodist Event for people discerning a call to ordained ministry. They asked us to respond to the question: “Who influenced you in discerning your Call to Ministry?” So here it is:

For many in ministry or clergy roles we simply “walk alongside” and  “live life” with the people whom we guide and work with in ministry. This is what the many faithful mentors in my journey have done with/for me–they’ve simply been there as I have experienced (thus far) the full stretch of human life–good times and bad.

auburn samford hallMy specific call to ministry and working with college students came during my freshman year at Auburn University when I went on a Weekend Mission Trip with Auburn Wesley Foundation and Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) to Mobile, Alabama to work at St. Francis Street Mission. The trip was led by Lisa Pierce, the founder and director of ARM

On the trip we worked with a man named “Mr. Johnny” where we fixed his roof and shared some good times and even a few jokes about coffee, roofing, and life. On Sunday morning instead of GOING to Church we went and DID Church: we worked in the soup kitchen and sang songs with the men, women, and children, the poor and homeless, who were in the mission that day. It was an eye opening experience to DO Church instead of just attending church/worship on Sunday morning.Emory Wesley students at ARM on Spring Break 2013 I came back from that trip feeling called and knowing that I wanted to do those kinds of things, and help others to do those things as my vocation. Lisa’s facilitating that trip and encouraging me to go has helped shape the direction of my life for the better. We still stay in contact and it is a great joy to bring Emory Wesley college students on trips to do work with Lisa and ARM.

Over the course of my time at Auburn the Auburn Wesley Director, Rev. David Goolsby, guided and mentored me in ministry and helped shape me into a leader in the Auburn community. I had the opportunity to help lead music and liturgy in worship, experiment with different styles and types of worship, lead small groups, reflect theologically and dream about church models, plan and lead mission trips, and many more opportunities for transformation and service. David is still a mentor of mine, officiated our wedding, and is a thoughtful guide and ‘guru’ of campus ministry for many.

I am thankful and grateful to God for mentors like Lisa and David who helped me to hear God’s call in my life. I’ll end with a word from David in my own paraphrased Goolsby-ism: “May we seek to be faithful to God as God is faithful to us.” Amen.

For more info about Exploration 2013 click here: ExploreCalling.org!

“This is My Song” (July 4th)

The hymn “This is My Song” serves as a reminder of the love God has for all people–not just for this nation or another nation. On this July 4th, may we be mindful of all the people in this nation and other nations who are still striving for justice and for peace.

The Fourth of July brings up many themes of patriotism: we celebrate our United States of America and demonstrate our pride in our nation–there are some instances of appropriately and carefully crafted celebration and pride, while other instances seem to exalt our nation over and against all other nations. The hymn, “This is my song” reminds us that ALL nations are loved by God and that we as individuals or as a nation do not have any more or less favor in God’s eyes. As the author puts it, it is “a song of peace for lands afar and mine.” The familiar tune Finlandia , by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, was written in 1899, as a covert protest against the oppressive Russian forces, and is a much beloved symphonic piece.

The 4th of July began as a day of celebration of our independence from the tyranny of the British empire upon the American colonies. Those many years ago our forefathers and foremothers gave birth to a land where religious and political freedoms were guaranteed and that all people had civil rights (although we are *still* working on getting these parts right some MANY years later).

The first two verses were written by American poet Lloyd Stone who wrote a number of books of poetry, two children’s books, and served as chapter president of the National Society of Arts and Letters. The final verse was written by Methodist theologian Georgia Harkness, who was one of the first women to hold a full professorship at a U.S. theological seminary--she taught at Garrett & Pacific School of Religion to name a few. Harkness was a leader in the ecumenical movement and was important in securing ordination for women in the Methodist Church. Most of her hymn writing was in the form of prayers and the final verse of “This is My Song” is a fine example of her work and her prayer for God’s peace to be known in “all earth’s kingdoms.”

Below is my own arrangement of “This is My Song,” which serves as a reminder of the love God has for all peoplenot just for this nation or another nation. On this July 4th, may we be mindful of all the people in this nation and other nations who are still striving for justice and for peace. “Si quieres paz, lucha por la justica” “If you want peace, work for justice.” –Pope John Paul II

“This is My Song” Lloyd Stone/Georgia Harkness, 1939 // UMHymnal #437, Finlandia, 1899 , J. Sibelius
This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
Myself I give thee, let thy will be done.

the chord sheet of this arrangement: This Is My Song (Finlandia in C)
(fair use)

*resources used:
the Commentary on the United Methodist Hymnal by Carlton Young
The Hymns of the United Methodist Hymnal by Diana Sanchez
Wikipedia (mostly the sources in the footnotes!)

Wade In the Water (live)

A live recording of a bluesy version of this beautiful spiritual from this past Sunday.

A live recording of a bluesy version of this beautiful spiritual from this past Sunday (04.29) at The Gathering @5:50pm ( a new worship service at Glenn Memorial UMC where I’m helping to coordinate the music for the worship).

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

This musical arrangement carries melodies which convey the solemn, yet hopeful words and tone of this hymn, which many consider to be Watts’ finest & most recognized hymn.

This is by far one of my favorite hymns for the season of Lent in the Christian tradition. The original hymn text was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)–one of the greatest hymn writers of the English language (more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Watts). The modern refrain in this version was co-written in the year 2000 by JD Walt (Theologian, musician, professor of worship at Asbury Seminary–link here) along with Chris Tomlin and Jesse Reeves (two rather popular christian musicians–link here). The refrain adds a humble call to action and submission to ‘come and die’ with Christ during this season of lenten preparation for Holy Week. There is also an amount of light shining ever so slightly with hints of the resurrection Christ and resurrection for us–the promise of Easter.

Although a variety of tunes can be used for this Long Meter tune (8.8.8.8–that’s 8 syllables in 4 lines), the original tune ‘Hamburg’ (#298 in the United Methodist Hymnal) is still my favorite. Hamburg tune was written by Lowell Mason a prolific hymn tune composer who is responsible for many advancements in music education (wikipedia info here). For me, this musical setting carries with it the more helpful melodies and notes which convey the solemn, yet hopeful words and tone of this hymn, which many consider to be Watts’ finest and most recognized hymn.

This is my own arrangement with the guitar tuned to DADGAG: a common Irish/Scottish/bluegrass tuning which allows for the playing of ‘melody’ while playing ‘rhythm.’

verse D Bm G D     D G A    D Bm G D    D G A D //  refrain  G  D/F# G  D/F# G  D/F# A  D

2011 Baker Award: Rev. Kristin Stoneking (making of the video)

This summer, while out in California, we had a little side project…a VIDEO project. Our task was to help capture and tell the story of Rev. Kristin Stoneking who had received a scholarship award for her doctoral studies.

I love learning about video and film making. Below is my reflection on a video project I worked on this summer & early fall to help tell the story of a friend who is a scholarship recipient working on her PhD (w/ some technical jargon):

THE PROJECT: This summer I was able to travel out to Sacramento, CA for Youth 2011, an every-4-year gathering of United Methodist youth ages 13-18 to help represent Collegiate Ministry. While out in California we had a little side project…a VIDEO project. Our task was to help capture and tell the story of Rev. Kristin Stoneking–Campus Minister and Director of the CA House at the University of California in Davis, CA. She has received the Bishop James C. Baker Scholarship which aids United Methodist collegiate ministers in advanced degree or doctoral studies.

(BELOW THE VIDEO IS MY ‘THE MAKING OF’ PORTION)

Special thanks to Kristin and the CA House as well as Allyson Collinsworth of Scholarships and Loans at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Interview, filming, and editing by Michael McCord & Joseph McBrayer.

THE SETTING: The CA house is a remarkable residential, intentional, and mutli-faith community in Davis where students live, learn, and serve together. It is a really neat, older house that has some cool spaces in it. For the interview we decided to use her office (looks scholarly–just out of focus books are always a nice background). The office is located on the second floor of the house and faces south out over a main road that runs beside campus. The natural light was good but we wanted a little extra so we took the lampshade off of a desklamp and moved it closer. In interviews, the best way I’ve seen to frame the shot is to put the subject’s head in the top-left or top-right quadrant with them looking across the line-of-sight of the camera to the interviewer–it is supposed to help the viewer to feel more like they are there–like they are just sitting on the couch next to the interviewer. Kristin sat in a classic wooden chair like the kind you’d purchase from your alma mater and we framed the shot of her from just above the waist up (allowing for some hand movement when she raised her hands to gesture, but not when they were at rest).

CAMERAS & AUDIO: For the interview we used a standard sony HD camera that our agency provided shooting in 1080 at 30 frames per second–this is the camera mounted on a tripod, which framed the standard “interview” shot. This camera also received the audio off of the wired lapel mic (a low-end Audio-Technica lapel mic). In video, audio is one of the MOST overlooked and neglected things. To me, audio is just as important as the video…well, its at least very important. For the second camera I used my Canon 60D DSLR shooting 1080 video at 30 fps (the camera has manual ISO & aperture settings which I used at 1.8 and 60–you most often want the ISO to be at least double the fps). I shot this video off to the left side of the subject using a shoulder mount (Cowboy Studio’s $30: plastic, lightweight, & affordable!) and the built in audio (which I removed from the clip afterward). The idea of the second camera in this situation was for us to give the video some live-feeling movement (very popular in film, tv, commercials, etc) and to utilize the out of focus caused by the shallow depth of field in the DSLR lens (a 1.8 50mm Canon lens).

DURING FILMING: While we were filming we just let the camera on the tripod roll the whole time so that we’d capture anything we said that could be helpful (this is ideal when filming interviews as some side comments may end up being quite sincere and be full of wisdom or little sound bites that prove useful). For the shoulder mounted camera I broke up the filming into two big chunks (the whole interview lasted only around 20 mins) as I had to set down the camera a few times to help fix the lapel mic. One of the big things for the interviewers to remember during an interview (especially one where the subject is the only one on camera) is to resist the temptation to agree or comment on what the subject says while the subject is still speaking or too quickly after they finish. The main reason is so that the subject finishing what they were saying and you don’t have to go back to take out audio because the interviewer agreed, applauded, or sighed–especially if the interviewer is not in the shot or the video at all. Another helpful thing is for the interviewer to think on your feet to hear something that the subject said that was especially good or where they may have stumbled on a word–in either case, ask them to rephrase or “could you say that again”–this ‘on the fly’ thought process is especially helpful if you have one person filming and one person interviewing.

B-ROLL: Before and after we filmed the interview Rev. Kristin gave us a tour of the CA House and the residential spaces behind the main house. We filmed with the DSLR & shoulder mount the whole tour looking for moments that might make good cutaways while Kristin was speaking. The B-roll before the interview was based upon what Kristin was showing us and her explaining the community (giving us a sense of the space & context with which to better ask questions) and after the interview was based upon what she said in the interview (specifically focusing on things she’d spoken about that ‘jumped out’ to us after the interview).

POST-FILMING & EDITING: This is the hardest part. Editing and working with the video you’ve captured is likely one of the hardest parts because *most times* the video you have is all you’ll have to work with. Moral: take LOTS of video on location. On occasion you can go out and re-create something that might work well to supplement an element that you’re missing, but in the majority of situations it is all about what you have on your hard drive or camera at the end of the shoot. I use iMovie (w/ the ‘advanced features’ turned ON) to create most all of the videos I work on–again, I’m not a professional and I’m still pretty slow using Final Cut. This project was challenging in part because we were creating it for another section of our organization (Scholarships and Loans). We communicated the goals, constraints, content, and needs of the project before we filmed itand after the interview we worked closely by email to discern and collaborate on how the project proceeded. There were 2 draft versions of the video which helped us to reach the final version of the interview and the comments and ideas generated from the first two drafts helped the final version to be more polished, more engaging, and better edited.

Well, that’s all…and that was a LOT. I hope that it might be helpful for those who are interested in filming and interviews–especially in the non-profit realm of the world. Feel free to contact me for more info or to collaborate on a project. There is a wealth of resources in the area of ‘how to’ and there are many excellent film makers out there helping to ‘tell the story’ of all the amazing things that are happening out there. May it continue.

A Day of Prayer for Exploration 2011

Today is a day of prayer for Exploration 2011. Exploration is a gathering of people ages 18-26 who are discerning, wrestling, or just trying to figure out their call into ministry. It is a weekend of people gathering from all over the church to pray, worship, teach, learn, listen, and hang out with other people who are asking some of the same questions about ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. Exploration 2011 will be held in St. Louis, MO at the Millenium Hotel  November 11-13. Registration is online and TODAY is the last day of earlybird registration!

And now, a prayer for exploration 2011:

God,
you know all people and you have made all people in your image,

 you love us and know us and we thank you for your love and call upon all of our lives:
for all of us: a call to work, live, and love people.

And today we especially pray for those who are discerning your call on their lives
to Ordained Ministry as Elders and Deacons in the United Methodist Church.
We pray that you would guide, equip, lead, and develop them into servants of the whole church and the whole world.

We pray for exploration 2011–that your Spirit will be obvious and apparent to all who gather.

In the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen.