Friday, May 17, 2013

My Aldersgate Tapestry Experience

by Rev. Elizabeth S. Tapia*

My mother Lydia S. Tapia use to say, “Di baling mabasa ang saya, huwag lang mawala ang pananampalataya.” This means, “never mind if your clothes get wet, keep up your faith.” She would say this to me over and over again as we treaded knee-deep through flooded streets in my village in Bulacan, Philippines. She and my grandmother Julia taught me how to pray and to sing Methodist hymns whenever I got afraid of the night, or while waiting for rice and milk rations.

 During my upbringing as a Methodist in a family of ten, I attended Sunday school, post-Christmas Institute for youth, met missionaries, worked as a deaconess, and later served as pastor and seminary professor, which all became distinct parts of my Aldersgate tapestry experience. I cannot single out an experience, nor can I give a specific date of my spiritual conversion.  All I felt was a continuous flow of God’s grace in the ups and downs of my life. Praying, reading the scriptures, selling fish in the public market, organizing youth and women in the church, visiting the sick and those in prison, surviving poverty and martial law regime, and later in life, migrating to the United States— shaped my faith and commitment to serve.

One item in my “bucket list” is visiting the Wesley Chapel in London. When I worked at Drew Theological Seminary, I used to visit Wesley’s statue on Fridays and theologized with him in my mind! In the seminary I read some journal entries of John Wesley. Fascinating! If he were alive today, I think he would blog or tweet with gospel aim. He would probably be engaged in innovative ministries with immigrants and refugees; leadership formation; opposing war, making peace; abolishing human trafficking, as well as other types of slavery, and call for economic, racial and ecological justice in the public square.  Are these not expressions of “social holiness” today and of people’s participation in God’s mission?

Now that I serve in the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, I realize more and more how our churches and faith-based communities are keeping true to John Wesley’s advice: “Go to the people in need, especially those who need you most.”

Praise God for God’s mission and heart-warming grace!

 *Rev. Elizabeth S. Tapia, Ph.D. is the director of Mission Theology (Mission Theology and Evaluation unit) for Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church in New York City. She is an Elder in the Bulacan Philippines Annual Conference. 

May 24, or the nearest Sunday, is Aldersgate Day or Aldersgate Sunday. This celebrates our founder John Wesley's life-changing experience at a meeting on Aldersgate Street, London, May 24, 1738. The World Methodist Council commemorates the 275-year anniversary of John Wesley’s Aldersgate Experience by inviting readers to share their stories of faith.

Photos: (top) Girls in the Philippines by Lisa Jackson; (below) John Wesley gives money to the poor in this artist rendering. Drawing courtesy of The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History. UMNS1176.

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