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October 2014 Pastor’s Corner
I’m writing this article on Wednesday, October 1, the first day of confirmation classes for our youth. One of our youth directors, Johnny Callison, will be teaching the classes with me, which combine opportunities for learning about the Christian faith and what it means to be a member of The Unitied Methodist Church. Two things come to mind when we start talking about confirmation. First, what is it? Second, why bother with it?
Often confirmation is spelled incorrectly: “conformation” If we offered conformation classes, it would be to teach people how to be like everyone else in the UMC. That’s not the purpose. The purpose of confirmation is to provide young people the opportunity to confirm the decision that was made on their behalf at their baptism. The United Methodist understanding is that the ritual of baptism is a celebration of the grace of God that is present in the life of an individual (of any age), whether or not that person is aware. Often the parents and faith parents make promises on behalf of an individual who is too young to make a commitment to Jesus Christ for themselves. Indeed, even the church makes promises on behalf of that individual to provide them with opportunities to grow in their faith. When the baptized come of age, they attend confirmation classes to understand what it means to be a Christian and choose whether or not to confirm that faith.
In an age where product loyalty is declining, so is loyalty to denominations. People choose a church based on size, what the church can offer them (not necessarily in the area of spiritual formation), and proximity to their home. Why bother with confirmation? Because there is a beauty and uniqueness to the UMC that is often overlooked and under-appreciated even by its members. We believe in a balance between personal salvation and service to the world. We believe that God’s grace works throughout our lives to perfect us in love. In other words, by God’s grace we grow in the likeness of Christ. That grace casts out all fear and so our assurance of salvation is lived out as an expression of love toward God and neighbor rather than a fear of eternal damnation. We bother with confirmation because we want individuals to understand what it means to be uniquely United Methodist. After prayerful contemplation, study and guidance, confirmation students are given the opportunity to join the church by promising to uphold it by their prayers (for and with the church), presence (actually showing up...not just worship), gifts (financial support), and service (to the church and the world.)
So here’s my question to you, church: How faithfully are you fulfilling your membership vows? Perhaps it’s time to brush up on – or learn for the first time – what it means to be a full member of The United Methodist Church.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
We are made in God's image and are meant to be creators of life and hope, not the consumers of our culture's shiny gods. We have the ability to change the world and create a legacy that will live forever in the lives of generations to follow. That legacy starts when each of us takes the hard steps of financial discipline and fulfilling the call to generosity that God has placed in all of us.
During the month of October, as we learn about the spiritual discipline of stewardship, the topic of money will be a big part of the focus. Why? Because money and financial resources are a big part of our lives. Stewardship Emphasis is not to make you feel guilty, nor is it to say that you have to be exactly like this or that person. The goal is for all of us to ask questions of ourselves and be open to the possibility that God will lead us in new directions in our lives. I strongly encourage you to look at this time of emphasis as an opportunity for spiritual formation and growth.
During the first four weeks of October, we'll be challenged in a number of different ways. We'll be asked to look for the idols in our own lives and name the ways these idols enslave us, holding us back from living in the true freedom that God desires for us.
We'll be challenged to consider the place that money, work, and debt have in our own lives. What are our common understandings of these, and might the witness of Scripture lead us to some different understanding?
We'll be challenged to ask ourselves what it means for us to be faithful, to save, and to give. How do we balance all the competing interests in our lives? What priorities does God want us to have?
Finally, we'll be challenged to give with our hearts, not out of obligation or a sense of duty and not just when we think the recipient deserves our gift. Instead, we'll be challenged to give the way God gives¾freely, fully, with no favorites or expectations of repayment.
It is our prayer that, at the end of these four weeks, we will have begun to grow into the people and church that God created us to be.
Let’s do this as a whole church, trusting that God has much for each of us to learn about ourselves and God. The theme for the whole month of October is this: first: putting GOD first in living and giving.
I continue to give thanks to God for the honor and privilege of serving in ministry beside so many faithful people. I am humbled by your willingness to serve Christ through the ministries of Mineola First United Methodist Church.
As I write this article we have just completed the second day of Vacation Bible School and already we are seeing the results of time, prayer and preparation. Without hesitation one of our fourth grade girls agreed to read scripture in worship next Sunday. She is so excited and has already begun practicing saying, “Please stand for the reading of the gospel.” One of the moms told me this morning that her son was up and out of bed way-y-y earlier than necessary because he was excited about coming back to the church.
The entire fourth grade boys class exempted themselves from crafts and recreation and the regular VBS schedule so that they could leave the church and work on someone’s yard. They wanted to practice kindness as a whole group.
It’s only Tuesday, folks! I can’t wait to see what God is going to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…
While many churches across The United States are struggling to attract children and youth to worship and church events/activities, we struggle with questions like, “How are we going to accommodate all the children who want to attend HIS Kids?”
The kingdom of heaven is like the church which echoed Jesus’ words, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them…” (Matthew 19:14) The kingdom of heaven is like the church that was not afraid but opened their doors and welcomed them in, surrounded them in love and taught them faith in Jesus Christ.
Please join me praying daily for the children who expect even now to start or return to HIS KIDS in September. Join me in praying for the adults who care for them. Please pray for God to call from among us the right men and women who will teach and lead and assist with HIS KIDS.
As always, if you need me for anything please contact me by e-mail at email@example.com, call the church office at 903-569-5426 or on my cell phone at 281-793-7558.
Grace & Peace,
I continue to give thanks to God for the privilege of serving beside you in ministry and the warm hospitality you have extended to my family and me. As I write this, I’ve not yet moved into the office or parsonage, nor have I officially started my appointment as your pastor but I already feel at home.
I’m very much looking forward to the listening gatherings which are set to begin in July. So far, nine individuals or couples have offered to open their homes to church members so that I have an opportunity to get to know as many of you as possible in a more intimate setting. Another aim of the gatherings is to create an opportunity for us to listen to one another. My hope is that the gatherings are diverse in age, perspective, personality, and dreams for our church.
These are the questions posed as discussion starters at each gathering:
Who are we (as a church) when we are at our best?
What is possible for us?
What do you love about our church?
Now is the time to sign up for your first and second choice of dates for the gatherings. You’ll be notified about which date you requested but please be aware that the number of attendees will be limited so please sign up early and be flexible.
I’ve set aside multiple dates throughout July and August in order to accommodate additional daytime or evening gatherings. So if you want to host one but haven’t gotten around to it, please contact the church office at 903.569.5426 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions. My email address is email@example.com. I don’t have consistent cell phone coverage but you can certainly leave a message or text me at 281.793.7558.
Grace & Peace,
June 2014 Pastor's Corner
Someone has pointed out that "Goodbye" is a shortened version of "God be with you." I want to thank you for the privilege of serving as interim pastor here at First United Methodist Church and for the opportunity of living in this wonderful Mineola community. As Cathy and I have mentioned frequently, Mineola has been our favorite place of all the churches I have served! What a wonderful town and what a great church to serve! I envy pastor Bobbie. It's hard to believe the time has passed so quickly!
What a privilege it has been for me to serve this amazing congregation! I have never served a church that has been so actively involved in so many different ministries that are making a difference in people's lives in so many ways. Dietrich Bonheoffer, the Lutheran pastor and theologian, who was murdered by the Nazis in 1945, had a clear vision of what the church was called to be. He received this vision by viewing the church through the lens of Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer described Jesus as a "man for others," that is, a man who selflessly lived and died for the benefit of others. Bonhoeffer argues that just as Jesus was the man for others in his earthly life so the church is called to be a "church for others," whose focus is outside of itself and which identifies itself not with the rich and powerful, but the poor and powerless. Bonhoeffer summed up in his "Letters and Papers from Prison," how such a church would look: "The church is the church only when it exists for others...The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men [and women] of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others... It must not under-estimate the importance of human example (which has its origin in the humanity of Jesus and is so important in Paul's teachings); it is not abstract argument, but example, that gives its word emphasis and power." First United Methodist Church certainly fits this definition. You demonstrate your love for others by example and not just word. I have seen this in so many ways in just the short time I've been here.
Finally, thanks again for your love, support and patience with me for my mistakes. I will keep both you and pastor Bobbie in my constant prayers. My prayer is that God will equip pastor Bobbie for the challenges ahead and that you might share together a productive and fruitful ministry as FUMC endeavors to be "the church for others." I know God has great things planned for First United Methodist Church and for the town of Mineola. May God equip you with every spiritual gift and blessing for the ministry God has prepared for you. Tony Bennett once sang, "I left my heart in San Francisco," but Cathy and I have truly left our hearts here in Mineola. May God richly bless you with every spiritual blessing available in Christ!
In Joyful Service,
May 2014 Pastor’s Corner
Christianity and Civility
“Precisely because rudeness is quite common, it is not a trivial issue. Indeed, in our day to day lives it is possibly responsible for more pain than any other mortal failing.” – Emrys Westacott
Webster’s dictionary defines “civility” as “civilized conduct, especially: courtesy, politeness; a polite act or expression.” Increasingly, we are living in a less and less civil world. It seems like everywhere we turn, we witness acts of incivility and rude behavior: at the grocery store, the bank, the airport, even driving on the road. We find rude behavior from the intrusive cell-phone user who holds loud conversations in public to the hostile highway driver who cuts us off with a quick swerve of his car. Politeness seems to be on a downward spiral. The truth is that rude behavior is becoming more and more prevalent. This doesn’t make it any more acceptable.
Dr. P.M. Forni is an award-winning professor of Italian Literature at Johns Hopkins University, who recently wrote a book entitled, “The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude.” Forni has some interesting observations about why we are rude, particularly in our cars. He notes that two distinct forces coalesce in the experience of driving that tends to influence drivers to become rude. One force is anonymity and the other is stress. The experience of driving tends to be an anonymous one since we are so isolated in our cars from other drivers that there is very little interpersonal contact. This tends to make the experience of driving an impersonal one.
The second force that combines with this is stress and which of us does not live under stress? When we’re under stress and driving, we tend to lash out at what we perceive as something that is impersonal. What we tend to forget is that the car that just cut us off is being driven by a human being with feelings, emotions and rights just like ourselves. When these two forces combine (stress & anonymity), people tend to respond to others in rude ways, yelling at the other driver, honking the horn, chasing them, cutting them off in return or making an obscene gesture. Remove one of these factors and the whole situation changes. For example, suppose you are in a contest with a rude driver who has given you an obscene gesture and you retaliate with another obscene gesture and suddenly you realize the person in the other car is your next door neighbor, or perhaps your child’s school teacher or principal. Remove the anonymity factor and the whole situation changes.
Forni also makes a distinction in his book between what he calls focused and unfocused rudeness. Focused rudeness exists when the rude behavior is focused on a particular individual or group. For example, if you’re a supervisor at work and you tend to be rude toward one particular worker because he or she irritates you or there’s just something about him or her you don’t like. Most rude behavior though is unfocused and almost unconscious such as the person who will take a cell phone call in the restaurant or theater and carry on the conversation in a loud voice and not even think about whether this may be disturbing others. The thought that this behavior might be rude never even crosses their mind. They don’t intentionally set out to be rude, but for all their good intentions they are. Most rude behavior is unfocused.
The apostle Paul had something to say about Christians and civility. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul exhorts the Ephesian Christians, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Grace & Peace,
The Easter Message
I don’t know about you, but I suspect that, like me, you probably don’t much like change. Every time my wife rearranges our furniture in the living room (and she seems to do this several times a year), it drives me crazy. I ask her, “Honey, why do we have to move the furniture around so much? Can’t we keep it in one place?” Most of us don’t like change. You might recall that a popular 2008 campaign slogan for the Obama campaign was “Change You Can Believe In.” Not long after that I was driving in the Houston area when I spotted a bumper sticker, which read, “I’ll keep my money, you keep the change.” Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, that bumper sticker pretty well sums up our feelings about change. We don’t like it. But change is a fact of life. And the Easter message is that on the first Easter Sunday morning the most radical change in history took place: the resurrection! Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God!
As we all know, our church is in a time of transition. Transition is that process of moving from something old into something new; it’s about change. I believe that God is slowly transforming our church. We have new people joining and our church itself is changing. We have a new pastor arriving in July. We are working together on the Vibrant Church Initiative to catch the mission vision and goals that God has for our church. This means a new mission vision and a new mission statement. God is working many changes in our church and in our lives personally, shaping us to become God’s servant community fashioned in the image of His son Jesus.
Yet often, we prefer to stick with what’s familiar and comfortable to us. One of the consistent teachings of Scripture is that God calls us out of our comfort zones to journey with Christ down new roads to new places of service. God called Abraham to leave his family to journey to a new land he had never seen. God called Moses to leave the wilderness and journey to Egypt to conform Pharaoh and lead the people to the Promised Land. God called Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River to take the land God had promised to their ancestors. God called Jeremiah to leave the safety of his family and preach to the Israelites to turn away from their idols and return to God. Jesus called his disciples to leave their fishing nets and follow him and become fishers of men. Jesus called Paul to leave his Pharisaical trappings and become his missionary to the Gentiles. God has worked this way throughout history calling people to leave their places of comfort and journey with God to unknown places of service, people like Augustine, St. Francis, St. Claire, the Wesley Brothers, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Evangeline Booth, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Corrie ten Boom, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa of Calcutta and a whole host of other women and men throughout history.
Can you imagine where we would be today if Christ had not left the tomb? We, too, are called to leave the comfortable tombs that we have inhabited for too long.
Several years ago, Reuters news organization reported that in Milan, Italy, a homeless man was hospitalized when he was found wandering around the city. The hospital staff was absolutely amazed when they found that his clothes were stuffed with money.
Although he had been living in shelters and on the streets for more than ten years, he had the equivalent of $30,000 in his possession. It was his life savings, but he couldn’t face spending any of it. The man’s identification papers had expired 13 years earlier. And without proper ID and a current address, the Bank of Italy had refused to exchange his defunct lira for the new euro currency.
How many people’s lives are just like that? They’re hanging on to all the old stuff of their lives. Old habits, old hurts, old wounds, old grudges. And as a result, they’ve locked themselves up in a tomb from which they can’t escape. They’re holding on to what they think is their only fortune.
When in truth, there’s a treasure more valuable than anything we can think of or imagine. A treasure that’s offered without any strings attached. All it really takes is a new identity and a little faith.
The identity comes from Christ Jesus. He has already claimed us, now all we have to do is claim Him. And then that faith in Christ empowers us to leave our tombs behind and follow Him into the future unafraid! That’s the message of the Good News. That’s the message of Christ to us. And that’s the message of Easter! See you in church.
In Joyful Service
What Am I Taking on for Lent?
We’ve come to that 40-day season of the year that we call “Lent.” The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. The color purple, which represents it, is a color of penitence and repentance. We begin the season of Lent Wednesday, March 5, with an Ash Wednesday service at 7:00 PM.
Traditionally, Roman Catholics have recognized Lent while we Protestants, unable to know what to do with it, simply ignored Lent. As most of us know, Lent traditionally is a time of sacrifice, a time when you are asked to give up something. Now this can be anything as mundane as not eating ice cream to abstaining from certain activities or social events.
In a contradictory world of scarcity for many and excess for the few, giving up something by the few who enjoy such an abundance of excess really doesn’t have much impact. What is the benefit for either myself or the world if I give up eating chocolate bars for Lent? Other than perhaps creating a craving for chocolate, I can see few benefits from this practice. But a more important question is what benefit will others derive from my act of self-sacrifice? Hungry people will certainly derive no benefit from my abstention from chocolate. The homeless will not be housed any better, nor kept any warmer.
A better question for us to ask ourselves is not “What am I giving up for Lent” but rather “What am I taking on for Lent?” What project or activity can I engage in that will make a real difference in people’s lives. What can I do during Lent that will brighten the life of someone? I can’t help but believe that it makes far more difference to God what we are doing to help others than what we are giving up to spiritually help ourselves. And as so many have delightfully discovered, when we help others we ourselves are the real beneficiaries.
When we consider that Christ identified himself with the poor and helpless (“Insofar as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.”) we are really serving Jesus when we serve people who need help. And we ourselves receive a blessing. Any of you who have ever served in Caring and Sharing or volunteered for the Kindness Kottage know what Jesus meant when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I would like to start a tradition here at First UMC to take on something rather than give up things for Lent. Recent bulletins have had a Lent Commitment card (and cards will be available at the Lenten service) that have a list of service opportunities which you may volunteer for during the season of Lent. I ask you to consider taking on one of these opportunities and experience the blessedness of which Jesus was speaking. May this Lent truly become for you a spiritual growing experience in which you grow not by giving up a self-centered activity but by taking on a self-giving activity that will benefit both yourself and others.
See you in Church,
Grace & Peace,Darrell
However, the General Conference of 1996 placed the term Interim Minister in the Book of Discipline. The 2004 Discipline reads, Par. 338.3:
Interim appointments may be made to charges that have special transitional needs.
a) Interim clergy may serve outside the annual conference where membership is held under the provisions of paragraph 337.1, with approval and consent of the bishops involved.
b) Interim appointments will be for a specified length of time, established in advance following consultation with the district superintendent, the pastor parish relations committee, and the interim pastor.
So why do we need interim ministers anyway? The idea of pastoral transitions in the UMC is similar to running the mile relay race in the Olympic Games. A baton is passed from each runner to the next, in full stride, never missing a beat. So the total race is run more efficiently by multiple runners than could be achieved by any one runner. That’s fine, unless the baton is mishandled – not passed at the right time or within the prescribed space – or dropped.
And it can happen in pastoral changes, too. The “opening” comes at the wrong time. The “right” successor is not presently available. The church is so wounded by the circumstances creating the opening that healing time will be required before it can fully embrace the leadership of a regularly appointed pastor.
An interim minister, sometimes called a TIIMS, a Transitional Intentional-Interim Ministry Specialist, is an experienced, mature, United Methodist pastor trained for the specialized ministry of the interim time. He/she is appointed by the bishop “for a specified length of time, established in advance” to lead the congregation in a time of healing and renewal as its wounds heal and it prepares for a new day in its life with a new pastor, yet to be appointed.
Interim Ministry is a far-cry from simple “pulpit supply!” Supply is akin to just keeping the doors open so the congregation still worships during the transitional time. Interim Ministry is a time of analyzing the wounds and hurts of a church and leading it to face or deal with these with clearly stated goal of bringing new congregational health and a return to vital ministry in the community.
Transitional Intentional Interim Ministry Specialists are NOT supply pastors. We are NOT filling a pulpit. We are specialists serving for a specific period of time with specific ministerial tasks. Our functions are suggested by each of the words in our title:
Transitional – One function is to bring the church from wherever it is to a new, hopeful and creative place in ministry. Part of our job is to move the church to a new place in preparation for its next pastor and to help it through that transition.
Intentional – We enter into a church with four specific formative tasks:
1. Identity: To help the church see its identity realistically.
2. Direction: To guide the church in discerning God’s leading for the church.
3. Leadership: To equip the church’s changing leadership.
4. Connection: To strengthen the church’s denominational connection.
The only pressure we allow ourselves is completing these tasks in the allotted time.
Interim – We are here to serve for a limited period of time with a specific beginning and ending date.
Ministry – What we do is every bit as important and essential to the church as the generalist in ministry, the local pastor. However, out tasks are limited, time bounded and specific.
Specialist – What we do is highly specialized ministry. We are very intentional and specialized in our tasks of ministry for a designated period of time, helping churches transition from whatever their situation is now to a new situation.
Probably the most helpful way to think of us is as specialists. If you needed heart surgery you wouldn’t go to a general practitioner. You would want a heart specialist with skills in heart surgery. Sometimes churches need interims who are specially trained to help churches through transitions to come to terms with their history, their identity, their changing leaders during the transition, their connections with the conference and their hopes for the future. That’s where interims can be helpful. Part of their effectiveness comes in knowing that they are only temporary and will only be serving in the interim between regular pastors.
Another helpful way of thinking of us is as backup quarterbacks. When the quarterback is injured or incapacitated in some way a backup quarterback can play a vital role in helping the team to win the game. A few years ago, we saw the importance of a backup quarterback dramatically demonstrated in the recent Orange Bowl game between Texas and Alabama when Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was injured. Unfortunately, Texas really didn’t have a capable backup quarterback freshman who was sent in to replace McCoy and the game was no contest after that. Interim ministers, like backup quarterbacks, can play a vital role in helping congregations to become equipped and ready for their new pastor.
I love interim ministry and know God has called me to this specialized area of ministry. I consider it a privilege to work with you and ask that you pray for me as we work together through the five developmental tasks in preparation for your new pastor.
See you Sunday.
In Joyful Service,