We’re a United Methodist Church.
There are two strange words you need to learn to understand who we are and what we’re about as a United Methodist faith community:
Metanoia is a Greek word your bibles usually translate as “repent.” Unfortunately, repent is a word that conjures all kinds of negative churchy associations.
Metanoia literally means turn around.
It’s the same word from which we get the word: REVOLUTION
So in the very beginning of the Gospel story when Jesus makes his first appearance on stage and announces “Metanoia, the Kingdom of God is coming near,” Jesus is enlisting troops.
He’s drafting people to turn away from themselves and sign up for a revolution.
A REVOLUTION OF JESUS’ KINGDOM HERE ON EARTH.
And when a lawyer asks Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him: “You must turn your heart, mind, soul and strength to God and to your neighbor.”
In other words, your WHOLE LIFE.
A REVOLUTION IN YOUR LIFE LEADS TO ETERNAL LIFE.
Then there’s the other word: Aldersgate.
It’s actually a place. A street in London, England.
Nearly 300 years ago, an Anglican priest named John Wesley attended a bible study at a church on Aldersgate Street.
Even though John Wesley had grown up in the church, even though his father was a priest and his brother was a priest and he was a priest, even though he’d traveled all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to serve as a missionary in America- his faith had always been in his head but not in his heart.
Not until he went to that bible study on Aldersgate Street.
That day, he heard the Gospel as though for the first time, and he wrote in his journal how that day he felt his heart strangely turned towards God.
John Wesley went on to start the Methodist Movement, a movement aimed at turning hearts to God through compelling preaching, hands-on service to the poor and small group bible study.
A PLACE TO EXPERIENCE A REVOLUTION OF THE HEART
Our Strategic Plan
In 2015, a strategic planning team known as the Joel Committee took a look at Aldersgate’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges and produced a report setting goals for the church for the next five years.
The committee also developed new vision, mission, and values statements for the church:
Courageously living & sharing God’s unconditional love every day, with everyone, everywhere.
Transforming lives by sharing God’s love and serving others.
Joyous, risk-taking, welcoming, generous and faithful.
Bringing Aldersgate’s Mission to Life
Aldersgate. It may seem like a strange name for a church. What does Aldersgate even mean? We’re actually named for a street in London where, back in 1738, a man named John Wesley went to a gathering of Christians. Although he had followed Jesus for most of his life, he still struggled with faith.
Reflecting later in his journal, he wrote this: “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
That evening was the pivotal moment in Wesley’s life. He started the faith movement that became the United Methodist Church. Wesley’s ministry was one of joy, with a theology of grace, forgiveness, and responsibility, and his scope was greater than the confines of just one congregation or community.
In a later journal entry he shared: “I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God has called me to; and sure I am that His blessing attends it. Great encouragement have I, therefore, to be faithful in fulfilling the work He hath given me to do.”
Even though the language Wesley used may sound a bit strange to us, it expresses something very important we can understand here today at Aldersgate Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Because we have already seen how simple acts of love can impact our community and our world.
We seek to live generous lives, giving of ourselves–our prayers, our time, our gifts, our talents, our resources–courageously living and sharing God’s unconditional love every day, with everyone, everywhere. We are the people of Aldersgate United Methodist Church.