by Nancy Graham Ogne on August 31st, 2016

This Fall our congregation will engage several out-of-the-ordinary practices that will lift us out of our usual routine -- but which dovetail perfectly with our larger vision.

On Sunday 9/18, we'll conduct our 4th annual Day of Service -- offering worship through serving our community in lieu of our regular worship format. We'll serve at the Ride-4-Ronald, supporting Lake Nona's new Ronald McDonald House, and probably also at Lake Nona Middle School.

On Sunday 10/2, we'll travel to Washington Shores Presbyterian, not far from Camping World Stadium to celebrate World Communion Sunday. Washington Shores is the only predominantly African-American church in Central Florida Presbytery -- and leaders from our congregations hope to foster ongoing friendships through shared activities. During the last couple years, racial tensions have heightened nationally due to several high profile tragedies. Erika Rembert Smith, pastor at Washington Shores, the WSPC session, and Hope's leadership team agree that forming multi-racial friendships is an important step to model a better way in the world.

We hope to launch this new partnership with shared worship at 11 am, followed at 12:30 pm by dinner on the grounds. At a later date, members of WSPC will worship at Hope -- and we plan a shared study of issues concerning faith and race.

Though these plans mean we will not be seated together in the middle school cafeteria on these two occasions, we'll be worshiping together in ways that fulfill our call as a community of peace, justice and service.

by Nancy Graham Ogne on July 29th, 2016

This powerful meme circulates from time to time: "The holocaust was legal. Slavery was legal. Segregation was legal. If you use the state as a metric for ethics, you're going to have a bad time."

It's a sobering reminder that we must be vigilant to examine the status quo -- even when it's enshrined in law. 

Today most of us shudder to think that Rosa Parks (pictured above) would be expected, even legally required, to forfeit her seat on public transportation to an able-bodied man just because he was white and she wasn't. Such an expectation offends our sensibilities. It's just not right!  But in 1955, predominant culture proclaimed, "That's the way it is. Things can't be changed. Follow along or .... be arrested ... be vilified ... promote scandal ... ruin life for everyone else ... destroy the fabric of society...." You get the idea.

As Christ-followers, we must recognize the biblical call for the community to care for the vulnerable:  the widow, the orphan, the alien, the poor. In Luke 4.18-19, Jesus publicly lays out his own mission statement "to proclaim good news to the poor ... to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Read that slowly. Jesus' God-breathed mission focused on bringing help and hope to the vulnerable. It remains a call to all of us who follow him.

If law or cultural practice excludes people, deprives some persons of rights or power or dehumanizes a subset of the community, we Christ-followers can and must call it into question. Not convinced? Feeling sure we must "defend" or hold others to a biblical standard at all costs? Re-read the Gospels. When someone's life or practice varies from a biblical standard (say, an adulteress; tax collector; a leper; a demon-possessed person; people of other faiths like the Samaritans), how do the Pharisees, the ardently religious people of Jesus' day, respond to that person? How does Jesus respond to that person?

And just who should we try to emulate? Friends, let's live like we get it.

by Nancy Graham Ogne on July 6th, 2016

On Tuesday 6/28 a group of Hopesters & friends gathered for the "Beautiful Together: A Journey Toward Hope" concert at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. What an amazing evening.

More than 50 Orlando arts groups joined forces to perform dance, readings, poems and songs in tribute to the men and women slain 6/12 in the Pulse nightclub massacre. Proceeds benefited the OneOrlando fund, supporting victims and families of the shooting that left 49 dead and 53 wounded.

Before and afterwards concert-goers roamed the memorials outside the Dr. Phillips Center,  which were surrounded by members of the Angel Wing Project -- "winged" volunteers who in the days following the mass shooting assembled outside the funerals of victims to protect family members from anti-gay protestors. They have performed ministry. 

If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me. ~ Jesus, Matthew 25.40

The evening was a lovely reminder for The City Beautiful that we are Beautiful Together.

by Nancy Graham Ogne on June 9th, 2016

Recently I stumbled on this photo from the finish line at Run Nona 2011. Just 10 weeks before we formally launched Hope Pres, the camera caught Tammy Strogis, our future Director of Children's Ministry, and me as we shifted gears for the final stretch.

Some time after this event, I tossed the race bib -- only to realize later, when shuffling some paperwork, that my race number had serendipitously been 516. Five-sixteen. As in Matthew 5.16: "Let your light so shine before others that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." As in: one of the three framing verses for our neophyte congregation! I ordered a copy of the photo to celebrate God's lovely affirmation.

Last month, for the entirety of 5/16, we urged each other to "Shine 5/16" -- to live in a way that causes others to pay attention and look beyond us to the One who claims us. We extended five Marlow "Help Your Neighbor" Grants in May, too ... allowing Hope to partner with our personal on-the-ground efforts. Well done, team! Though 5/16 as a month/year designation won't recur for another century, we can live it every day. Friends, let's live like we get it!

by Nancy Graham Ogne on May 25th, 2016

Last week, 12 women from the Hope family met for an evening of color and light at Painting with a Twist in Winter Park.

Our own Sarah Allen, a professional artist, led our class -- teaching a roomful of novices how to engage a blank canvas without fear. Several people who've seen images like this one note that while we painted the same object with the same instruction & same color palette, each of our "Dawn of a New Day" paintings was distinctive.

For me, this became a lovely metaphor for following Jesus Christ. Each Christ-follower looks to the same model -- our leader, Jesus -- who shows us how to engage the world with grace ... colored by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And while an observer should quickly recognize the pattern we're following, God uses our individual personalities, gifts and weaknesses to shape these efforts into a unique offering for the world. 

Thanks be to the creative God, who allows us to bring our own flair to his good and beautiful purpose! 

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