Jim Harnish

Something the Storms Blew Away


The Longest Night

The night Irma came to Eagle Lake was the longest night of the year!

When her 120 mph winds swept over our house it was as if we were sitting in a train station with high speed, non-stop trains roaring past. We wondered if the windows could withstand the pressure and if the old cedar tree and the newly planted magnolia would still be standing when the sun came up.

We were among the fortunate ones, unlike so many people in Houston, Key West, or Puerto Rico for whom so much was blown away.  The windows held, the trees are still standing, and insurance will help cover the cost of a new roof.

What can we do to help people who have lost so much?

Before the power came back on, we sent another donation to the United Methodist Committee of Relief (http://www.umcor.org) and started collecting items for “flood buckets.”  As it always is, UMCOR was ready to meet the real needs of real people and provide the rest of us with a way to serve.  Faith-based agencies like UMCOR are usually the first into the crisis and the last to leave.  Because it receives denominational support, every dollar designated for a specific need goes there.

The Longest Word

That’s when I remembered the longest word in the English language: Antidisestablishmentarianism.

It was planted in my brain when a young contestant correctly spelled it to win the prize on the 1950s TV show, The $64,000 Question. It’s actually the longest “non-coined” word (Mary Poppins takes that prize with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious) or the longest technical or medical term.

In the 19th Century it identified a movement that opposed displacing the Anglican Church as the established church in England, Ireland and Wales.

One of the things that gets blown away by natural disasters like Harvey, Irma, Maria or the earthquake in Mexico is the disestablishmentarianism of our time. Politicians who get elected by promising to tear down the Federal government are the first in line for FEMA funds when the storms hit their states. People who are determined to slash government spending expect the first responders to be on call in a crisis.  And folks who wonder if these weary, old, mainline, denominational churches make any difference in our world are grateful when agencies like UMCOR are ready to help.

It’s just one of the reasons that I can’t give up on finding a way to hold the United Methodist Church together.  UMCOR is just one example of the way the really important things that bind us together — our Wesleyan theology, our history, our tradition, and our mission — are stronger than the things that divide us.  If we Methodists can find a way to be in ministry together while honoring the diversity of our convictions, we may have a critically important witness for our deeply divided nation.

Join the Movement 

That’s why I feel called to be a part of the Uniting Methodists movement.  If you are a United Methodist and share this conviction, I hope you will join us!

Grace and peace,