Setting the facts straight on flags in church

April 22, 2014

Dear Editor:

I write today to set the record straight. I ask you to keep an open mind and then form your opinion based upon the facts.

Fact One: First United Methodist Church has two locations serving Pettis County: First Church Downtown and Celebration Center.

Fact Two: At each location a flag is prominently displayed. Downtown it is in the sanctuary. At Celebration Center it is on a pole outdoors at the main entrance.

Fact Three: The flags remain in their place and have NOT been removed or taken out of their first locations.

Fact Four: There doesn’t need to be an argument over placement. The fact is we have a flag at each location and each placement is appropriate to the setting. Flying a flag outside is about as “before the people” as it gets. The flag at the Downtown site is appropriately placed in relation to the speaker and congregation.

Fact Five: In addition to these flags, there is a flag at a permanent display in the lobby of the Celebration Center which highlights a ministry called S.O.S (Support Our Soldiers). This ministry sends care packages to men and women at home and abroad as an encouragement and support in gratitude for their service (this is for anyone, member or not).

Fact Six: On Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Christmas Eve services we formally acknowledge and pray for our military and families (active duty and retired). Listed every week in our bulletin is a prayer request to lift up our military and families.

Fact Seven: The flag is displayed in the worship setting for memorial services (many of our 40 & 8 friends will remember passing by this flag and saluting it in honor and respect to our country and in remembrance of the person for whom the funeral is being held). And, there have been times that flags have lined our driveway at the Celebration Center for such services or on occasions like the Fourth of July.

Fact Eight: We don’t always get it right. There was a time in winter when the flag at the Celebration Center was retired because it was frayed. For three days there was no flag on the pole simply because the new one, which had been ordered, had not yet been received

Fact Nine: Recently a neighboring business was flying a tattered flag. When we learned they needed a new flag we donated one and they continue to fly it in honor of our country.

Fact 10: Each of our flags are in memory of persons who served our country. One is in memory of a WWII veteran and the other is in memory of a Vietnam War veteran. We will not suggest to either family that their thoughtful gifts are not enough and we have to add another flag to either location.

So, there you have it. All but the last two facts were shared with the primary party raising the concern. I am not sure where the breakdown in communication is, but now you have the information and can make your own decision. We appreciate the service of all our veterans, active duty and military families. We prayerfully hope this helps and doesn’t add to the confusion.

For every time this topic comes up in conversation, why not take a moment and turn the conversation to a phone call to one of our military families, who have served our country, and express your gratitude. I think that is how I will address it from this point forward.

Blessings and thank you for the privilege of sharing this information.

Jim Downing, Pastor

First United Methodist of Sedalia