Most of the Methodist world gasped in horror at the news last week that a prominent TV evangelist, the surreally-named Creflo Dollar, had gone public with his desire to raise $65 million from his faithful flock for a new private jet. (That’s a lot of dough — you can build a substandard high school football stadium with that! Rim shot, please …)
People in the liberal Protestant tradition can’t really relate to the financial attitudes of a large segment of Pentecostals and evangelicals. I can, because I grew up in this subculture.
My high school years, in particular, were spent at a growing, suburban megachurch in Plano, Texas, which came out of the Word of Faith movement, based in the ministry of Kenneth Hagin and Rhema Bible College. Churches throughout the world have imbibed their ethos from Hagin’s influence, as well as his spiritual descendants, including Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, and others.
Since these are non-denominational churches, there is no direct link between them, except in the loose affiliation of friendly preachers and funders, as well as overarching themes and teachings, the primary one being something called “Prosperity Theology.”
The first, and fundamental, tenet of Prosperity Theology (PT) is that God desires that all Christians be, if not wealthy, then extraordinarily well-to-do, and completely healthy. According to this thinking, believing Christians should have no unmet material needs, nor should they be sick. Proponents of PT point to Abraham as the paradigm of the faithful believer; he was obviously a rich man by any ancient Middle Eastern standard. Much of the Old Testament supports the concept that the faithful will be blessed, while the wicked will be punished with poverty — even in this world, never mind that a whole lot of the Old Testament is also spent pushing back on this concept, including the books of Job and Ecclesiastes.
Financial blessing is a spiritual birthright, then, of the believer. There are a number of ways to tap into this windfall. The Word of Faith folks emphasize the words and speech of our mouth; what we say out loud determines what actually happens. You must constantly “confess with your mouth” that you are prosperous and blessed. You must not allow yourself to voice negative thoughts, worries, or concerns, because then those things just might come true.
Furthermore, you must constantly “believe” or “have faith” that what you want will happen. To “believe for something,” is PT code for “saying that something is going to happen, even though you don’t have any proof that it will.” It’s essentially positive thinking on steroids.
Another way to receive the financial blessings you deserve is to give out of your poverty. The best way to show your faith is to give money away that you can’t afford to give away. Like the widow who gave away her last two pennies, believers are encouraged to give sacrificially. These gifts are then, not simply offerings, they are “seeds” that are sown into fertile ground, and which will reap a substantial reward.
The best proof that this sowing and reaping dynamic works is to look at the preachers who practice it — the people who buy TV stations and broadcast their images throughout the world, while dressing like fashion stars, driving expensive cars, and, yes, buying private jets.
And this theology “works.” All you have to do is count the number of people in Dollar’s churches, or the numbers of people throughout the world who buy it. I was surprised to discover in Cameroon, that one of the handful of public TV stations that were available on every set, was a Christian station out of South Africa. Every program and preacher on the station promoted PT thinking. The Methodist pastors in our fledgling mission ate it up. They thought that’s what American Methodists believed, too.
And so, when I heard Creflo Dollar’s appeal, it didn’t shock or surprise me. It made a lot of sense:
“The mission of Project G650 is to acquire a Gulfstream G650 airplane so that Pastors Creflo and Taffi (his wife) and World Changers Church International can continue to blanket the globe with the Gospel of grace. We are believing for 200,000 people to give contributions of 300 US dollars or more to turn this dream into a reality—and allow us to retire the aircraft that served us well for many years.”
In my last year or two at this megachurch in Plano, I began to be troubled by the disconnect between what I heard from the pulpit and what I read in the Gospels. I notice that our pastor never preached on Jesus’ words, “If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me.” He never preached about Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler, nor did he address Jesus’ words about not having a place to lay his head.
Even worse was the disconnect between the message preached and the reality around me. I heard people in my church literally tell a man that if he had enough faith, his wife would not die of cancer. Three weeks later, when she died, I couldn’t help wonder if his faith had been damaged for good.
I understand the appeal of PT; it does seem to speak a word of hope and expectation to poor people. But it’s not the right word. It seriously distorts, not only Scripture, but also human experience.
I’ve tried to put that kind of theology far behind me. However, this morning, as I watch the furor around Dollar’s request, I wonder how much PT has seeped into our very own Methodist subculture.
I’ve been vocal in the last few years about how much I distrust numbers as a sign of fruitfulness. I’ve written here and there about the meaningless of statistics, particularly church membership and attendance. I recognize that this is partly due to my own experience in a PT church growing up.
But take a look at some of the largest churches in the world — Nigeria’s Living Faith World Outreach Ministry has a sanctuary that can seat 50,000. They have three services every Sunday. Pastor David Oyedepo is Nigeria’s wealthiest preacher, worth $150 million by some estimates. And he preaches the same prosperity BS that Dollar preaches. Is the size of his church a sign of God’s blessing on him?
I would argue, “Of course not.” It IS possible to build a megachurch which is built on a faulty theology.
This leads to the question, “Is the size of any church a sign of God’s blessing or curse AT ALL? Is it even a sign of doctrinal orthodoxy?”
The answer is, “No.” It’s simply not a direct correlation. Yet, we United Methodists continue to moan about our membership decline. We are worried that the numerical loss indicates something about our performance. This might be true, but it is not always true. Then we rush around trying to fix the numerical loss, assuming that it is performance-related. This causes us to create fundamentally-flawed, performance-based metrics. “Marks of fruitfulness” can never be expressed on a spreadsheet.
Let me say it clearly: the size and budgets of our churches do not matter, especially in terms of faithfulness, fidelity to the Gospel, and quality of ministry.
Let’s take that question a step further: “Is the size of one’s wallet, or salary, or savings, a sign of God’s blessing or curse AT ALL?”
Again, the answer is, “No, not at all.” Yet I fear that, subconsciously, there are a whole bunch of us Methodists who actually subscribe to the logic of Prosperity Theology, even if we would never articulate it in those terms, and are actually offended when we see it baldly expressed by the Creflo Dollars of the world.
John Wesley was absolutely right when, toward the end of his life, he lamented how wealthy the Methodists of England had become. He recognized that they never did really subscribe to the third of his famous trinity of financial maxims: “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” In his sermon, “The Danger of Riches,” he preached:
O ye Methodists, hear the word of the Lord! I have a message from God to all men; but to you above all. For above forty years I have been a servant to you and to your fathers. And I have not been as a reed shaken with the wind: I have not varied in my testimony. I have testified to you the very same thing from the first day even until now. But “who hath believed our report?” I fear, not many rich: I fear there is need to apply to some of you those terrible words of the Apostle: “Go to now, ye rich men! Weep and howl for the miseries which shall come upon you. Your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall witness against you and shall eat your flesh, as it were fire.” Certainly it will, unless ye both save all you can and give all you can. But who of you hath considered this since you first heard the will of the Lord concerning it? Who is now determined to consider and practice it? By the grace of God begin today!
How many of us actually preach it, or practice it?
I confess that I don’t, yet all the while, it convicts me, and gnaws away at my spirit, hoping that someday I might attain the practical holiness of Wesley.
I can sit here on my computer and take potshots at Creflo Dollar’s silly jet idea all I like, but perhaps I am just as silly, greedy, and deluded. I have succumbed to the same dream, the anti-Christian American Dream, the anti-Gospel Prosperity Theology, because I, too, simply want to be wealthy, healthy, and successful.
Lord, have mercy on me.
This is the end of the New MethoFesto blog. I have decided not to post anymore on this site, and instead, direct all traffic to a new site, For the Common Great, at www.forthecommongreat.com.
When I originally began blogging at this site, I intended to comment on the direction and shape of the United Methodist Church. My byline was, “a UM pastor’s personal call to action,” which was a direct reference to an initiative to restructure the UMC at last year’s General Conference in Tampa. The Conference was an abysmal disaster by all accounts, and I wanted to contribute to the conversation.
But I’m done with all that. As I look back on my previous posts about the church and its workings, it all sounds like inside baseball. I can’t imagine too many people actually being that concerned about the future of a mainline denomination. I fear that even God is slightly bored by the conversation.
I still love my tradition, and consider myself United Methodist, but to the extent that most of North American Christianity is firmly stuck in Christendom models of church and discipleship, I am simply not interested. Most people are not interested. That’s why they’re “spiritual but not religious.” That’s why they check the “None” box when it comes to religious preference.
It’s plainly obvious that the church in North America is in terminal decline, no matter one’s theology, worship style, or politics. I have yet to see a denomination take the bull by the horns, and ride the chaos into a new future.
I don’t want to spend one more hour trying to prop up the status quo. I don’t want to waste any more time thinking about how to patch up a leaky rowboat.
Instead, I am extremely excited about what God is doing in the whole wide world, among people of different faiths, and in the fields of justice and peace. That’s where I want to be.
So go read about my plans for the new website at www.forthecommongreat.com, where I hope to encourage a new spirit of faith-based activism. I’ll be expanding it greatly over the coming months, including subscriber-only content such as videocasts, Google hangouts, and ebooks.
And yes, I’ll be observing Ramadan again this year. Follow the fun at www.forthecommongreat.com/blog.
I will also continue to blog about the missional church in my role as a Missional Monk along with co-conspirator Bret Wells, at www.missionalmonks.com. We will continue to have lively discussions around the emerging church of the future, but in an ecumenical and open style.
Thanks for being a faithful reader. Here’s to the Common Great!
My first and only experience with a gun took place when I was eight. My dad gave me a BB gun for a present. I remember shooting at a simple target in the front yard of the home where we lived.
More vividly, I remember the time that a friend was preparing to shoot at the target, and I foolishly passed right in front of him. My friend wasn’t ready to pull the trigger when I passed by, but my dad sternly scolded me. “Never walk in front of someone with a loaded gun,” he said.
Good advice. But I didn’t need it because I never became fond of that gun.
In fact, I’m not fond of guns now — not BB guns, rifles, handguns, or semi-automatics. I never developed any sort of fascination with things that shoot.
I realize this is due to my upbringing. Despite the gift of the BB gun, my father was not really interested in guns either. He didn’t hunt or fish, and so didn’t raise me in that outdoors, survivalist, camo-wearing subculture. Instead, I grew up interested in sports, books, music, films, and urban life.
At some point in my life, I came to the conclusion that gun ownership was actually antithetical to the lifestyle of a Jesus follower. I still believe that.
It is because of that conviction that I don’t own a gun, and never will.
In the midst of the current, post-Newtown national debate on gun control, this is my sole contribution to the discourse. It is my personal pledge, my manifesto.
I don’t own a gun, and never will.
I refuse to claim the rights (whatever they may be) of the Second Amendment. Those rights don’t mean anything to me as a follower of Jesus, who warned us that those who live by the gun, die by the gun.
I’m not that interested in changing the laws either. Yes, I think it’d be great if access to guns were restricted, but wouldn’t it be better if people just began to disarm themselves? Wouldn’t it be better if each of us said to ourselves, “I am not going to own a gun anymore”?
And wouldn’t it be better if, in particular, those who claim to follow Jesus decided to disarm? Imagine the impact if hundreds of thousands of folks said, in unison, “I don’t own a gun, and never will, because I follow the way of Jesus”!
I’m not advocating any sort of forced, government-imposed disarmament, but the free choice of people who are ready to live differently in this gun-loving nation, who are willing to completely divest themselves of weapons in the name of the Prince of Peace.
Why don’t we rise up en masse to refute the words of NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who foolishly said, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”? Theologically, this statement is indefensible. Jesus stopped the ultimate “bad guy with a gun” by giving up his life non-violently, and in the process, “destroyed death,” according to the Apostle Paul. The whole truth is that there are lots of ways to stop a bad guy with a gun, and not surprisingly, love is one of the ways.
Furthermore, there is a stark, false dualism at work when we so glibly refer to “bad” and “good” men. How can one really tell the difference, especially when Jesus kept pointing out that those whom his contemporaries thought were “good” were remarkably “bad,” as in the “scribes and Pharisees” who were hypocrites, and that the “bad” deserved compassion and kindness, such as the prostitutes and tax collectors? Guns enforce a black-and-white view of the world, which is extremely gray. And it’s amazing to me how many “good” guys suddenly turn “bad” when they have a gun in their hands.
I can’t think of a more powerful faith statement than to stand in solidarity and say, “Despite the presence of evil and terror in this world, I will not succumb to the false security of owning a gun.”
A word to hunters: Yes, I know that there are many folks who follow Jesus who also like to hunt. I know that your reason for owning guns is recreational. I don’t intend to try to persuade you to give up your guns, nor to insist that there is something morally wrong with hunting. If you hunt, then hunt safely. And keep following Jesus.
A word to those who carry guns which are required by profession: I am aware that there are many folks who follow Jesus who carry guns as part of their job. Again, I have no interest in trying to persuade you to take my pledge. I know that you carry your weapons with a clear conscience. I am not interested in starting an argument. All I ask is that you continue to wrestle with the words of Jesus, in particular, the command to, “Love your enemies.” That’s the best that any of us can do, to continue to struggle with the full import of Jesus’ message. He said some pretty strong things, and commanded us to do some really hard things. None of us are able to live completely and perfectly in the way of Jesus, no matter how hard we try.
However, the person who professes to follow Jesus must grapple with his teachings, as well as the example which he set. It’s clear in my mind that the arc of Jesus’ ministry steers us away from violence in any form, toward peacemaking and acts of radical love. His life also teaches us that violence can never be used to accomplish peace or love; the ends do not justify the means.
I can’t imagine a more powerful witness to the way of Jesus Christ than for as many of us as possible to say proudly, at the top of our voices: I don’t own a gun, and never will.
Who wants to say it with me?
I’ve been in a real funk since the news of Friday’s tragedy.
I’ve mentioned to at least one friend that I didn’t feel as if I have been able to really grieve. I’ve stayed off Facebook because I didn’t want to hear from those who so casually and flippantly continue to defend the ubiquitous presence of guns in our society, as well as those who think that because teachers don’t lead students in prayer meetings, schools no longer house God’s presence.
But in a flash a few days ago, I suddenly realized why I have been emotionally distant from the Sandy Hook shooting.
Because I lived through a similar episode of school violence.
In the fall of 2005, all three of our children attended the American School of Yaounde (ASOY), located in the capital city of Cameroon in central Africa.
One morning, Leah received the phone call that every parent dreads: “Come quickly and pick up your kids — something’s happened.”
No explanation, no details. Not a word about the safety of our children. When she called back, the line was busy. Everyone we knew at the school had a busy line.
In the absence of an all-present media, we had nothing to go on. We sped through the streets of Yaounde in a state of panic, but those twenty minutes were the longest of my life.
What had happened? What would we see? Were our children in danger? It was hard enough to live in a foreign country where I still didn’t know the primary language well enough to speak to a stranger. A cold dread climbed up my spine and enveloped my heart as we made our way across town.
Soldiers and police blocked the main entrance, so we made our way around to the back. To our relief, we saw Mallory our first-grader immediately, then Chloe, the fourth-grader. Finally, Rachel, the seventh-grader made her way to us.
We hugged each other tightly, even though the girls still had very little clue what had happened.
The details slowly leaked out: a Cameroonian eleventh-grader named Franck had walked up to his classmate, the son of a diplomat from Burundi, at the start of a class on the second floor of the ASOY building, pulled out a butcher knife, and plunged it into the young man’s chest twice. Then slowly, as if in a trance, Franck turned and left the class, walked down the hall and down the stairs, the knife hanging limply by his side, dripping drops of blood. He made it as far as the front gate before security guards disarmed him and took him into custody.
Jean-Alex died quickly on the floor of the classroom, as a teacher held him and tried to stanch the bleeding.
He was the only victim, but he was killed in the classroom immediately above the room where Chloe was sitting at the time. To this day, she vividly remembers the colors, smells, and sights of that morning.
When we talked about the murder yesterday, she told me that she remembered the order in which the juniors came flying down the steps, fleeing the room above. The stairs to the ground floor went right by her room. She saw the kids running as fast as they could. The older brother of one her friends came down so fast that it looked like he jumped, she said.
Chloe’s teacher, shaken by the rapid-fire order of events, told the children that it was “probably just a snake.” Then the school counselor entered the room, turned quickly, and locked the door behind her. She was laughing nervously, Chloe remembers.
A little later, the kids were ushered out of the room to the tennis courts back of the school. And not long after that, frazzled parents began arriving to collect their children.
All the emotions, fears, thoughts, concerns and doubts came rushing back once I made the connection between Sandy Hook and that morning at ASOY. It’s an experience I don’t wish on my worst enemies.
I remember thinking to myself at the time that I’d actually thought my kids were safer at school in Cameroon than in the US, because those kinds of things “only happen in America.” Then I remembered that this is what everybody always says, no matter where they are.
One of the things I learned through the months that followed was that healing is hard. I served as a pastoral counselor afterwards, and spent time with some of the classes as they worked through their emotions. I ate lunch in the school cafeteria as often as I could. But the teachers and students struggled to finish the school year. Midway through the spring semester, the principal and counselor resigned. And though we finished the school year at ASOY, we chose to homeschool Chloe and Mallory the next two years.
I don’t know if any of us have fully healed from the experience. We simply lived through it, and moved on. Now we’re seven years and half a world away from Jean-Alex’s death.
Chloe is a healthy, fun-loving junior herself now. She seems fairly well-adjusted for having a crazy father like me. But I sometimes wonder what she carries stuffed deep down inside her because of that morning. I wonder if she really fears random violence, unexpected bursts of terror. There’s nothing I can do to change that about her. I can’t alleviate that kind of fear. But it may always be there.
The young man who killed Jean-Alex was clearly emotionally disturbed. After the fact, we learned that Franck struggled with depression, mood swings, and erratic behavior. Even though teachers at ASOY understood that the young man was clearly struggling, they didn’t have the resources to treat him competently. And Cameroon is not the sort of place that has developed a medical community that can treat people with mental, developmental, or intellectual disabilities. Too often, Cameroonians simply ascribe erratic behavior to witchcraft or evil spirits.
As it turned out, Franck’s father, a famous Cameroonian footballer, Theophile Abega, came to his son’s defense, and told him to tell the media and police that the crime was an act of “self-defense” because Jean-Alex had made homosexual advances toward him. In Cameroon, homosexuality is a crime punishable by death; and Franck’s story, though untrue, created a tide of public favor on his behalf. To this day, Franck has not been convicted of any crime, though he is confined to a mental institution.
Violence at school, then, can happen anywhere and anytime. The infinite number of variables make it impossible to predict. People are deeply wounded, and those who are most in pain often lash out and hurt others.
I hurt because I know what it is like to live through a crisis of school violence. The events at Sandy Hook hit a little too close to home.
But there is a big difference between what transpired in Connecticut last week and what happened in Cameroon: Adam Lanza had access to guns, Frank didn’t.
Cameroon’s gun laws are restrictive; the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed, and is only permitted with “genuine reason.” As a result, guns are very expensive, especially for a population that lives on the edge of extreme poverty.
Guns are such a luxury in Cameroon, that even some members of the military go without. Even if they do get their hands on a weapon, they might not have ammunition. The cost of a gun would have been simply prohibitive.
Frank still was able to carry out an act of violence. But if he’d had a gun in his hand, there would likely have been many more victims.
One of them might have been my daughter.
Thank God, Frank didn’t have a gun.
Oh God, if only Adam hadn’t.
I was humbled to hear that I had won the Brass Crescent Award this week for “Best Non-Muslim Blog.” I’ve had a few thoughts since hearing the news.
First of all, thank you to those of you who took the time to go to the website and vote for me. Some of you even encouraged others to vote – thanks, Amanda Q!
I am particularly grateful to my friend, Daryn DeZengotita, who originally helped get my Ramadan posts noticed. Thanks to her advice and guidance, my story got picked up by KERA, WFAA-Channel 8, and the Huffington Post, to name a few.
But beyond the award itself, I can’t help but marvel at the openness of the Brass Crescent award organizers. The fact that they would even include such a category for the “best blog written by a non-Muslim which is respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialogue” is incredible. Can you imagine a “Best Non-Christian Blog” sponsored by a Christian website or organization? Neither can I.
This fact makes me extremely sad. Sometimes it appears that the desire for interfaith interaction is one-sided in America; it sounds like non-Christian religious folks are desperate for Christians to listen to them. They simply want us to take them seriously, to open up and acknowledge their legitimacy. They want to be seen as genuine religious partners, not as potential converts.
I know that there were Christians praying that I would convert some Muslims during my Ramadan experience, but I also happen to know that some Muslims were praying that I would convert (or “revert”, in their language) to Islam. I don’t believe that either result would have been true to what was really happening in the experience. Instead, I like to think that I was converted to a new understanding of the way God is working in the world. And I think I converted some others to that way of thinking.
A Catholic priest, Vincent Donovan, put it this way in his classic Christianity Rediscovered: “Do not leave others where they have been. But do not try to bring them to where you are, either, as beautiful as that place might be to you. Rather, invite them to go with you to a place neither you nor they have ever been before.”
That’s precisely what happened to me this summer. I discovered a new place where I can stand in solidarity and community with Muslims, a place where we care about the same things. It’s a place I had never visited before.
I am still a Christian, and Yaseen (my imam friend) is still a Muslim. Indeed, we hold our convictions strongly and confidently. But because of our friendship, we have moved into a sphere of compassion and care for each other and each other’s communities. We don’t need to, nor want to, convert each other or our peoples to the other’s point of view. Instead, we have found that we can occupy a new space in which our concern is the common good, the good of all humanity and the whole planet. And God is there.
This experience needs to be duplicated over and over, by Sikhs and Buddhists, agnostics and evangelicals, New Agers and Catholics, Wiccans and Baptists, Hindus and atheists.
I believe that this can only happen through personal friendships, through personal interactions, through casual conversations over dinner or coffee.
And that’s the conviction of my friend, Muhammad al-Amin, of the Deen Institute of North America. DINA has a simple objective — to connect every American with a Muslim American online so they get to know each other first-hand. “Personal interaction is the key,” he says.
He then had a brainstorm to create a big event where Muslims and Christians, Jews, Hindus, and others could get together in one place and meet each other. His big idea mushroomed into a festival event with special speakers, performers, and musicians. And the result is Waves of Unity, which will take place at the Dallas Convention Center on Nov. 11, 2012, from 2-9 pm.
I happen to believe that this could be a landmark event for the religious communities of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. If you live nearby, please make an attempt to attend. I will be there to lead a breakout session, talking about my Ramadan observance.
But I’m looking forward to making new friends. Come join us!
This morning, I sent out the following statement to members of First Rowlett UMC:
Dear First Rowlett Family,
After four and a half years of great ministry at First Rowlett, the time is drawing near for me to leave. When we arrived here, my family and I were grieving our sudden departure from Africa and trying to figure out what to do next in ministry. Thanks to your patience, compassion and friendships, we were given a safe place to reestablish ourselves, make new friends, and become adjusted to life in America again.
I thoroughly loved being your associate pastor. You gave me room to experiment, test new ideas, and try new ways to do ministry. You let me into your families, invited me into your homes, and allowed me to challenge you. More than anything, I have enjoyed preaching to you week after week, sharing insights from God’s Word.
But now it’s time to move on to a new phase of ministry. For some time now, I have felt called to focus more attention on ministry outside the local church. At the beginning of this year, I began a conversation with Rev. Jan Davis, District Superintendent Rev. Frank Alegria, and Rev. Dr. Elaine Heath about moving into more full-time work with refugees and the people of New Day.
This week, the bishop agreed to my request, and approved my appointment to Extension Ministry, which is a fancy way of saying that I will no longer be connected to one local church, and will instead be working in more general ministry. Specifically, I will be working as a Missional Pastor for the Missional Wisdom Foundation, the non-profit organization started by Elaine Heath for the purpose of enlarging the work of New Day, Epworth Projects, and the Academy for Missional Wisdom.
I will also spend time starting a new refugee ministry called Project Daraja, an empowerment program for recently resettled refugees. Our Lead Team, which involves members of First Rowlett, FUMC Garland, and University Park UMC, has already begun meeting and will soon be coaching families. I hope and dream that Project Daraja will eventually become a Conference-supported ministry.
I look forward to working on these various ventures, and I hope you will consider becoming part of them, too. I will share information soon about how you can get involved.
Change is always difficult. I, for one, am excited but nervous about this new appointment, because I’ve never done ministry exactly like this before. And I’m sure that you are also anxious about what the change will mean for First Rowlett.
The clergy and staff of First Rowlett care about you greatly, and you all have a bright future with their leadership. I am confident that the church will continue to grow and flourish, as you continue to take the gospel of Jesus Christ beyond the walls of our building, and as you throw open the doors wide to the entire community.
Thank you again for your support.
Grace and peace,