Sunday, September 27, 2009

Republican Grove UMC Homecoming 2009

Yesterday, Sunday the 27th of October, Republican Grove UMC had their annual Homecoming Sunday. It had rained all day on Saturday and it wasn't looking too favorable on Sunday morning. But, by the time we were going to start the service the sun started peaking out and it turned out to be a beautiful day. It was nice, having been here 3 years, to recognize the folks that I only see at Homecoming or for special occasions, because they live too far away or attend a different church.

The other two churches of the Mount Airy Charge, Providence UMC and Saint Andrews UMC, joined Republican Grove in celebrating their Homecoming Sunday. It is something special to see all three of the churches coming together to fellowship and worship.
This year for Homecoming Sunday I was asked to speak. I told them that I was unaccustomed to being in the pulpit at Republican Grove. Usually, everyone sits on the piano side of the church and I use a podium on the floor level. It feels less like preaching and more like having a Bible study. I used the Book of Ruth for my scripture passage (no I didn't read the entire book), family photos I've been scanning (parents and grandparents when they were younger), an excerpt from the movie "Field of Dreams", and lyrics from a song by 70's rock group Blind Faith in the sermon. Somehow, to my surprise and the congregation's, it all came together. Isn't God amazing?
Brian Daniels, from Providence UMC, sang "You Lift Me Up" for us. The members of Republican Grove asked specifically for Brian to sing for their Homecoming after hearing him sing when they had joined Providence UMC for their Homecoming two weeks earlier. Brian has an excellent singing voice and I think that in the future Providence will be having to share Brian's talents more often.
After the service concluded everyone went out front of the church to enjoy the warm sun, while the final preparations were made for lunch. It was well worth the short wait.

As always, the food was abundant and delicious. I would try and give you a run down of all the food that was there, but I'd still probably forget half of it. No one had to leave still hungry. Homecoming meals are an excellent case for fasting the next day or two.Everyone enjoyed the meal and the fellowship. It was a good time for remembering, catching up on each others lives, and renewing friendships.

Looks at all these desserts! It is a diabetic's nightmare or, if you're a sugar junky like me, a really sweet dream. I made sure that the first thing on my plate was Doots Abbott's peach cobbler and there was still room for just a tiny bit of everything else.

It always seems that when I sit down with a full plate of desserts, someone comes around the corner with a camera. It never happens if I have a plate of salad. I tried to slide the plate out of view with my little finger, but I wasn't fast enough.

It was a great day. Thanks to all who worked to make it that way. Food, Family, Friends, and Fellowship; it doesn't get much better. See you all next year!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

District Stewardship Workshop

I went to a stewardship workshop yesterday at Court Street UMC, titled "Strengthening Stewardship in Challenging Economic Times". There were maybe about 60 to 75 people there. Some pastors but more financial or treasurer types, at least it seemed that way to me. I guess there a some people that already know this stuff, but its new to me. I've made it a special point of not getting involved with the money side of the churches. My policy had been that if bills, Conference and District apportionments, and ministry needs are all met, why add the finance concerns to my plate.

The speaker was from an organization that helps churches with their annual stewardship campaigns and capital campaigns for major projects. I've learned to listen closely at the beginning of these workshops to find out whether I need to try to get it all down or glean from the information what would be helpful. The speaker started off by saying that they primary work with large churches with annual budgets in the multi-millions of dollars; first sign to glean. But, he added, they also work with smaller churches of 100 to 150 members. Well, it was gleaning time, find the real stuff that my churches might be able to use and disregard the rest.

The workshop covered topics like; Pre-Campaign Planning, Readiness Assessment, Campaign Leaders (This was another part that made me laugh. They had enough leaders that the leaders would up half of 2 of my congregations), Spiritual Emphasis Committee (There goes the other half of the congregation.), Campaign Materials, and the Personal Visit. I will admit that I did get some good information out of the workshop, but I also left a lot behind.

It wasn't a wasted morning though. They had some really delicious BBQ for lunch. I got to sit and talk to Tim Earnhardt, who was the pastor at Fairview UMC when I was the youth pastor there. We sat a talked for over an hour. We were the last ones to leave, they were cleaning off the tables while we were still talking. Tim will be our guest speaker at St. Andrews' Homecoming Sunday in October. All in all, a good morning.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

St. Andrews UMC's First Bilingual Service

Back in July after an outdoor service at St. Andrews UMC, some of us were sitting outside the church under the big tree talking about ministry opportunities for our church in rural Pittsylvania County of Virginia. There were numerous things that were brought up and one of them was to have a Sunday service and invite some of the migrant workers from Mexico, who work at the area farms, to church and have a cookout after the service. We finally got it all together now that it is September. We ran into one potential problem, the harvest had come earlier this year and many of the workers in the area had left for home. After 4 months away from family who could blame them for hitting the road to home. Nonetheless, we decided to plan as if they would be there and do the service as we had planned. If nothing else, it would be good practice. This was going to be a new thing for all of us. One thing we all knew was that none of us spoke Spanish. We would need an interpreter for the service. Minnie May, works with me at the doctor's office and knows Spanish. She agreed to help us with the interpretation. Since she had never done this before, we worked together on the sermon. We wrote the entire sermon out in manuscript form and after each English sentence we placed a Spanish sentence. We would go back and forth through the sermon. I would have to keep my impromptu speaking under control. Joanne did an entire bulletin in Spanish, with the Call to Worship, Apostles Creed, Doxology, hymn titles, and other information all in Spanish. She also did inserts for the bulletins with the words to the hymns in English and Spanish.

When I was leaving my first church,Republican Grove UMC, heading to my second Sunday morning service at Providence UMC, I saw that I had a message on the cell phone. It was Bill Wyatt, he was calling to tell me that they had thought there might be only one guest for our first bilingual service, but things had changed. I have to admit that my heart sank just a bit as I waited for him to say that we would have no one joining us. Then he said that there would be FIVE more coming and he hoped that wouldn't be a problem. I was literally shouting praises to God as I drove the back roads to my next church.

While we had a few glitches during the service it came off wonderfully. For some reason the tape player, that I had played tapes on two hours earlier, refused to work for us. Minnie and I had forgotten to talk about translating the prayers, but she did great. Our guests said they could hear, understood and follow the sermon.

We cooked hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill and then moved inside to enjoy a good meal and fellowship. I brought my specialty, chips and salsa. We made sure that our guests went through the serving line first. There was an abundance of everything.
It was a very good day. This is the first time that we have done a bilingual service. I pray it will not be the last. I believe that it was a blessing to our church and hope it was a blessing to our guests. Next year we will have to start earlier, do it more often, and find where God would have us to go from there.

Shiloh UMC Homecoming 2009

Well, I got abandoned this Sunday. Joanne decided to send me off on my own while she attended the Homecoming Sunday at Shiloh UMC, her home church where she grew up and we were married. They must have felt as if the prodigal daughter had come home. Joanne got back on the piano and accompanied her cousin Sharlene, who played the organ. The pastor at Shiloh is Rev. Bob Merkle, who has been a good friend and a lot of help to me when I have questions about Methodism.

Joanne always have family at Shiloh. Above are her cousins Chelsea and Cody on the phone. Below are her cousins Katie and Emily.

This is Joanne with her cousins Laurie, Mary Beth, and Sharlene.

Forget what they say, You can go home, even if its only for a visit, its still going home.
P.S. Joanne brought me home a big plate of food; fried chicken, ham, deviled eggs, ham biscuit, baked apples, potato salad, and some really good baked beans. I guess it pays well to have your wife take an occasional Sunday off.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lynchburg District Charge Conference 2009

The Lynchburg District Charge Conference was held at Court Street UMC. The Lynchburg District represents 18,442 members in 91 churches with 66 pastors. Three of those churches I have been blessed to pastor. The District Charge Conference is essentially our corporate business meeting along with a nice time of worship. We review the reports from the past year and elect delegates to the United Methodist Annual Conference.

During the message, Larry Davies, the District Superintendent, said: "The Lynchburg District is not meant to be a church. We are meant to support the church. So, what should be the most important overall purpose of the Lynchburg District? We are to offer support and resources to enable our churches to better serve the mission given to us by Jesus Christ."

After the meeting we had representatives from area ministries and agencies who had set up displays to let us know about themselves. There were displays from Marriage Alliance, Multicultural Ministries, the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center at Blackstone, Organ Donation, Parkview Missions, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Heart Haven.

Providence UMC Homecoming 2009

Providence UMC had their annual Homecoming last Sunday, September 13th. The three churches of the Mount Airy Charge decided that this year that all three churches would come together for each other's Homecoming Sunday. So, the members from Republican Grove UMC and Saint Andrews UMC came to Providence UMC to fellowship and worship together.
Our guest speaker for Homecoming was Rev. Roger Wilburn. He had been the pastor of the Mount Airy Charge some 10 years ago. It was nice having all three churches there to see him again. Mark Adams was our guest pianist. Joanne accompanied Brian Daniels on one song and played and sang with him on another.
As always the food was abundant and delicious. There was turkey, ham, BBQ, chicken, and roast beef just to name a few of the meats. I can't list everything on the table, but there was no way to try it all. Though a good effort could be made.
There were enough desserts to send a diabetic into shock. But, there were quite a few prepared for those who couldn't have the sugar. I tried several of them (just as a research comparison of course) and I couldn't tell any difference.

Rev. Roger Wilburn
It was a nice time of fellowship, while we enjoyed the meal. It was good to see the folks from the different churches talking and laughing. One gentleman came up to tell me that my idea to have all three churches together was brilliant. He said he and his wife had been talking to someone they didn't know. It turned out that they had gone to the same school. He said it was like a class reunion. I had to explain to him that it wasn't my idea though. The churches had had the idea and they had chosen to do it. But, I did agree with him, it was brilliant.
It was an excellent day. A bright, sunny day, but not too hot. A good word from the pulpit, good music and singing, and a full house. An abundance of food to be shared and enjoyed. Fine fellowship with old and new friends. Why would you want to be anywhere else?

Starting the Course of Study at Duke University

Last weekend I started my Course of Study for the United Methodist Church. The Course of Study is required for all local pastors and is essentially to make sure we're all trained as proper United Methodists.The classes are held at Duke University. There is a total of twelve classes, each requiring three weekends at Duke. The weekends are in September, November, January, and March. The class time is Friday night and Saturday morning. So, if you haven't done the math, if you go straight through with no breaks, you can finish in three years. But, it seems that they give you twelve years to finish, so I could take one class a year and retire before I finish.

The class I'm taking in September is titled "The Pastor as Bible Interpreter". The Professor is Mickey Efird, who has apparently written more books about the Bible than I've ever read. I like the class, it reminds me of some of my undergrad classes. But, it sure is a lot of info in eight hours each weekend. I think I had better get my hands on a digital voice recorder. I can't write as fast as I did years ago.

There are five of us in this first class from our Licensing School class. A few got a jump and started last year. I have to admit that it was a relief to find known friendly faces in the class.

Duke is a nice campus, seems well laid out, but I got lost anyway. When we got out on Saturday I started walking back to my car and realized that I didn't have a clue where I was or where I was going. I wandered around for about 45 minutes before I found the parking lot and then I had to find where my car was in the lot. I think next week I'll leave a trail of bread crumbs to find my way back.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11 Eight Years Later

This morning I've been watching the memorial services from New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. I am remembering, shuddering as images of that day are shown again. Eight years later and the tears still come. They say we must not forget, I can't.

I saw the finest in our nation and in our friends around the globe after that day. My prayer is that we not only remember the events of that day, but also how we came together as a nation. There were no races, no political parties, no diverse nationalities or religions. We were all Americans. American flags flew from houses, cars, businesses, trees. We had a bond that solidified us. What was meant for evil, had an unforeseen result. We need to remember just how incredible that felt.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2009 Pastor's Retreat at Blackstone

Again in 2009, the Lynchburg District pastors of the United Methodist Church met for a retreat at Blackstone, the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center.
Larry Davies, our District Superintendent, opened the retreat and Janet Hawkins led worship.

There isn't much more amusing than a bunch of pastors getting together and being led in some children's songs, complete with hand gestures and body movements. Its pretty cool to see fellow pastors relaxed and loosening up.
The authors of the book "Does Your Church Have A Prayer"; Marc Brown, Kathey Merry, and John Briggs; were our speakers.
There was quite a bit of good information shared, but so much seemed applicable to larger churches. What I have to do is glean from what was presented and find what was there that can be a blessing to my churches. I had to get past so much that seemed like information that I had heard at medical laboratory conferences, business applications. That's what I'm weeding through. I pray that God helps me find what my churches need and what will bless them.

Now, click on this to enlarge it. Now, Larry is always moving fast, but he's in two places at once!

At our last meeting together, Larry had asked us to wear Hawaiian shirts to accessorize the surf theme of the closing message. All us really spiritual folks sat all the way in the back of the room.

The big problem with retreats is that they end up being more workshop than retreat. I would like to go to one that emphasized prayer, worship, and being still. It has been way too long.