Dear South East District Friends,
Greetings to you this Lent.
I had the opportunity last week to spend a couple of days on the “Space Coast” with Mariana. It was our first trip to see the Kennedy Space Center and we were both very excited to do so. Neither of us is an expert on space, rocket ships or planets so we knew we would learn a tremendous amount during our trip. Indeed, that was true!
The wonderful exhibits at the Space Center allow you to learn a bit about history, heroes, technology and engineering as well as the many challenges to space exploration. There are memorials to those who died as a result of this exploration and a deep understanding of the limitations of human capacity even while “shooting for the stars.” I was profoundly impacted by the memorial to the Challenger tragedy of 1986. I distinctly remember sitting in my 8th grade science class watching the Challenger take off on live television. We had learned the names and vital stats of the astronauts, particularly Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher to go on a space mission. I remember watching the take off and then, quickly, realizing something had gone terribly wrong.
A walk through the Space Center reminds us that we have a long way to go in making space exploration accessible to all people as the industry is still largely white and male. It is also a reminder of why the space program received such attention, money and resources in the early days – the Cold War. It is daunting to recognize what competition, fear and the desire to win can make possible.
So, what were my “take aways,” you might ask? Let me share two here.
One, humanity can surely do almost anything it sets its mind to, with God’s help. Seeing the incredible effort it takes to get people to space truly gave me a sense that “we can do it all.” I ask, though, why the investment in space exploration cannot also be put forth in the areas of eradicating homelessness, hunger and lack of access to education? Mariana and I began our Space Coast vacation after spending last Saturday morning at the Annual Foot Washing for the Homeless at First UMC of Miami. Churches, as you know so well, do an amazing job of combating many social ills. What if the resources of our larger community and government could be offered in the same ways to eradicate these tragedies on our own planet?
Second, I returned home with questions about my daily life and our life together as the Church. What is an example of our own “space exploration?” How might we accomplish the “impossible” when we put our minds, hearts and resources toward one clear, tangible and faithful objective? It doesn’t need to be the size of the moon. Perhaps it is the size of a camp for children, a meal program for seniors, a new worship service, an outreach to troubled teens, a prayer vigil in your neighborhood. Trust me, for many hurting people in our communities, any of these accomplishments would feel like walking on the moon. How might we work to accomplish them together, sisters and brothers?
Grace and peace to each of you. May God continue to guide our journeys here on earth as we pray to the God of all things small and large, known and unknown.
The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church
450 Martin L King Jr Ave
Lakeland, FL 33815
(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011