September 29, 2016

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Stan Mooneyham is a former director of World Vision, a charitable agency that combats global poverty and hunger. At a national gathering of religious leaders from a wide spectrum of faith traditions – Catholic and Protestant, conservative and liberal – conversations quickly devolved into sharp disagreements. At the end of the first day of meetings, a weary Mooneyham was ready to relinquish to someone else the role of facilitating these discussions.

But the next day, an inspired Mooneyham turned to a flip chart and drew a number of little dots, each with a circle around them. He told the bickering leaders that this was how they perceived themselves and their relationships with others – as isolated individuals hedged by self-protection.

Then, Mooneyham drew a large, all-encompassing circle around all the dots, and read a portion of Edwin Markhams’s poem, “Outwitted:”

          He drew a circle that shut me out –
            Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout,
            But Love and I had the wit to win:
            We drew a circle that took him in. 

Mooneyham concluded, “I may not be in your circle, but you are in mine, and there is nothing you can do to get out. You can’t resign, walk out, or run away. If you try it, I will just draw a bigger circle.” 

Immediately, the bitterness and strain in the room evaporated, as each person recognized their own protective bubbles, and remembered that God’s wide circle included everyone in the whole world. Starting that day and for the rest of their time together, Mooneyham and the religious leaders had the most productive time building relationships that World Vision had ever experienced. [1]

Adobe Spark (44)


In such a polarized, bitterly divided world, we would do well to remember Mooneyham’s advice, and that is exactly what our Missions Celebration and World Communion Sunday are all about.

This Sunday, we will draw the circle wide, and remember our connection to Christians all around the world. We will gather for another celebration of the 50+ missions and agencies supported by this church. We will hear from our own Elio Muller, who will reflect on his Cuban heritage and his own powerful journey of faith. We will observe communion in unity with Christians far and wide. Most of all, we will live out our core value of being “Mission Directed,” as a part of the rich, textured tapestry of the global church.

Think about it. On the very same day that we will be gathering in worship, Christians around the world will be doing the same, in their own context, praising God in their own way:

  • Somewhere in Greece, an orthodox priest will walk down the aisle of the sanctuary swinging a censer, carrying burning, aromatic incense. Its billowing waft will remind people that their prayers are being lifted up to heaven.
  • Somewhere in Siberia, a group of Sakha Christians will sing an olonkho, a heroic epic poem set to music that recounts the wondrous stories of the first three chapters of Genesis.
  • Somewhere in the Burgundy region of France, the Taize community will gather to sing the songs that have garnered them international intention: simple melodic chants based on Scripture, and sung in canon.
  • Somewhere in Moscow, worshippers in a Russian Orthodox Church will sit in a sanctuary filled with beautiful icons, pictures that portray saints and sacred stories, drawing people into a focused celebration of our spiritual ancestry.
  • Somewhere in India, Christians will sing a bhajan, a beautiful devotional song repeated like a haunting, lyrical mantra.
  • And somewhere in Togo in western Africa, Christians will celebrate the New Testament in a formation similar to country line dancing. With their hips and torsos shaking in perfect synchronism, they will worship God with passion and energy.

It is great to know that just as our common creeds can unite us together, our rich differences can speak of a God of diversity and harmony. We need not be divided by our differences, but we can be united by our common humanity and our mutual love of God and each other.

So join us this Sunday, and let’s show the world what it looks like to draw the circle wide.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey CC

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park Untied Methodist

[1] Toycen, David. The Power of Generosity:  How to Transform Yourself and Your World. (Waynesboro, GA:  Authentic Media, 2004)

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