UM Churches Provide Hospitality for Inauguration Crowds

January 20, 2009

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Jan. 18, 2009 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)


Barack Obama's election came at a time when the world seems to be in turmoil, but Bishop Gregory Palmer told the congregation at Foundry United Methodist Church this week, the "future is so bright it makes our eyes burn."


Palmer, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, was the guest preacher Jan. 18 for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend at Foundry. He challenged the congregation with a question: "After Jan. 20, what are you going to do?"


Obama's election is not the end, he said. "We are on the threshold of an unbelievable moment. Barriers have fallen, but the dream has not been fulfilled.


"What this world needs is the full engagement of all of us."


The United Methodist Church's Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference welcomed the millions in the nation's capitol for the inauguration by using a quote from Gandhi, "Be the Change You Want to See."


"Could it be any simpler than that?" Palmer asked. "When justice does not reign, it diminishes all of our lives."


Radical hospitality

Bishop John Schol (below), who leads the denomination's Washington Area, thanked the Foundry congregation for extending "radical hospitality" to the guests in the city for the Jan. 20 inauguration.


People from around the country converged on Washington for the historic swearing-in of the first African-American president of the United States. The timing of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 19 added to the level of activity and energy around the event.


Forty United Methodist churches in the area opened their doors to people from across the United States, offering a place to sleep, along with food and fellowship. Some 90 people were sleeping on the floors of Sunday school classrooms at Foundry: the groups hailing from New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Iowa, and Georgia.


The church held social justice workshops on Sunday, Jan. 18. The next day - the holiday that honors the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - participants fanned out across the city for service projects ranging from making sandwiches to cleaning one of Washington's historic parks. On inauguration day, Foundry's doors opened at 9 a.m. and will remain open until 6 p.m. Visitors were able to view the inauguration on a projection screen while enjoying a hot beverage and fellowship.


The Foundry Choir and the Young Person's Justice Chorale, directed by Mark Miller, performed a concert Sunday night with an offering for Nothing But Nets, a campaign to provide mosquito nets to families in Africa.


"I have seen firsthand how much these nets are needed," said the Rev. Dean Snyder, senior pastor. "For $10, you can literally save a child's life."


Part of history

Moira Vaughn, 12 (at right), wearing a new pink Obama shirt, said she supported the new President from the beginning of the election campaign.


"I believe he is going to change things," said the young Ohioan. "I wanted to be here because I wanted to be a part of history."


Vaughn and 30 other young people traveled to Washington on a chartered bus. Most of the group is in confirmation classes in the East Ohio Conference.


Pam Lamb-Hart and her husband, the Rev. Gary Lamb-Hart, wanted the young people to have a chance to go to Washington and experience the inauguration. Said Pam: "It makes a difference in their lives to be part of something like this."


*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tennessee.