From the Pastor's Desk
Well the time has changed, the weather is cooler, and we begin to look ahead to that season where we are light deprived and snow-covered. I always take winter as a time to think and plan for the coming spring and summer. It is a time of slowing down, cooling off, and letting our busy-ness take a back seat.
But things are still going strong in the church. We have had several new activities begin in recent months. Among these are a knitting and crocheting group, a Civil War Discussion group, a short-term Bible study on Ruth, and a new community-wide free movie day. Although there are many things happening, there is always room for more. If you have an idea or passion, share it with me or with one of the Leadership team and new things can happen.
We are approaching our Pledge Sunday (Nov. 19th). For the past few months we have taken several Sundays to emphasize what we do with our money. We have been using as a guide James A. Harnish's book Earn. Save. Give. He uses Wesley's simple adage concerning how we deal with what the Lord has given us. That is Earn all you can; Save all you can; and Give all you can. The Old Testament minimum was a tithe, a tenth of our earnings. The New Testament gives no set amount, perhaps because we are to give all we are, all we have to God who has so generously given to us. In reality, it is not about how much we give, but about how much we keep back. As we come to our time of pledging, give, not to the church, but to God, who gave us the greatest gift of all, his Son, Jesus Christ.
In other areas of this newsletter there will be announcements of activities coming up during Advent. I do intend to have an Advent study. More details will be forthcoming. One item that is coming up is our Annual Charge Conference. This year it is December 21st. It will be a time of reviewing the past year and making plans for the next. If you are a committee chair, you need to submit a report for inclusion in our Charge Conference Booklet. Pleas don't wait for the last minute! Chris and I would appreciate those reports as soon as possible so that the materials can be printed and collated.
This month we come to my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Part of that may be because my birthday is near that day. It also is a favorite because of the food. This year I will have to learn a new way of enjoying is as surgery has diminished my appetite, but I still look forward to the smells (they don't add calories), the family gathering, and at least sampling a bit of turkey and fixings. As you gather with your families, give thanks for what you have, for what you can share, and for all that God has blessed you with.
Greetings in the midst of summer! Certainly the dog days of August are upon us. The gardens are growing rapidly (especially the weeds), and we are enjoying all the flowers that summer brings us. It may be summer but we are already gearing up fro fall and Sunday School and Advent.
In a few days Vacation Bible School will be with us. This is an opportunity for service with our children. If you haven’t volunteered, at least come for a night to see what is happening.
New things are happening. A knitting and crocheting group has formed. Check with Anita for details. This fall I am offering a Civil War Discussion group. I am not sure of the details yet, but hope to draw from the community and the church interested individuals for a lively discussion. I hope to have a meeting once a month, beginning with September 8th, at 7 PM.
I have met our new District Superintendent. Rev. Dr. Foster comes to us from parish ministry in Philadelphia. It is evident that he has a pastor’s heart, with teaching being a major emphasis. I have arranged for him to come and speak ( and to be introduced to our congregation) on one of my vacation weeks in October. Rev. Foster will be speaking on October 8th.
Lately we have been going through Romans on Sunday mornings. Romans is probably Paul’s best thought-out treatise. He did not know the church at Rome; he had not been there. So, in a way, this letter was a letter of introduction. Paul uses his letter to outline his basic beliefs and theology. This week, July 23rd, Paul, in Romans 8 talks about hope and patience. The 30th will cover the final parts of Chapter 8, and then on August 6th and 13th we will be in Romans 9 and 10. There Paul will discuss where Israel fits in with this new concept of faith in Jesus Christ. Come and learn. Come and fellowship. Come and spend an hour in God’s house with God’s people.
Continue to have a great summer! Enjoy the warmth and sunshine. But do’t neglect your faith. Take time to refresh and renew, and get ready for the fall that will help you grow in love, faith, and hope.
When you receive this newsletter we will be in the month of June. It's hard to believe the year 2017 is nearly half over. This month is filled with celebrations and important dates. For Pat and I, we celebrate our 43rd anniversary on the second of June. The 11th marks 42 years as a pastor for me. And in mid-June we have our church's Annual Conference in Manchester, NH. Annual Conference is always special and seeing old friends and making new ones is always great.
Within our churhc we wind down our Sunday School with Children's Day on the 11th of June. Children are always welcome at worship and I hope they come Sundays to participate with the adults in our time together. Keep track of events through our Sunday bulletin and newsletter because even if we slow down in some areas, we still are very active throughout the summer.
Through most of the summer I will be preaching on Paul's letter to the Romans. This letter is perhaps Paul's best thought out description of what it means to be a Christian. For June, July and August we travel from Romans 5, which contains the "therefore fo justification," through chapter 8, the "therefore of sanctification" to chapter12, the "therefore of communication." The Christian life is a journey that begins with salvation, continues through sanctification, and results in a personal and community commitment of transformation into the image of Jesus Christ. As John Wesley would say, "How is it with your soul?" Are you being changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ?
As it is for most of us during the lazy, hazy days of summer there will be vaction times. Even when I am away I can be reached through Chris in the church office or through Beth, the PPRC Chair. I will not be so far away that I could not get back for any emergency.
As we come into summer, do take time to relax, refresh, and to rejuvenate, but don't forget the church and your family here. Weekly we come toether to worshp, to praise, to pray, ant to support one another. So join us on Sundays.
We certainly had our April showers; I'm still waiting for the warm-up for May flowers! I am thankful though, that the needed rain has replenished the ground water and the drought we were experiencing. Last year seems to be something of the past.
We are now through Lent and East. There were several special services throughout Lent, which were well attended. Our sun-rise service was especially nice in that the sun rose just as we were beginning. We did a study of "Jesus in John" during Lent. We looked at the seven miracles that John noted in his Gospel, as well as the seven times Jesus used an "I Am" statement.
The church is fast approaching our end of Sunday School year. Children's Day is slated for June 11th. Although Sunday School ends for the summer we do not forget nor neglect our children. There will still be a part for them in each Sunday's service, and towards the end of the summer we are scheduled for a Vacation Bible School.
We have been looking at Peter's first letter lately on Sunday mornings. There is much there to cause thought and questions. Peter saw the church as a community that worked together, served together, and worshiped together. That is still what the church is all about. The vows we take as we become members of a local church state that we will "faithfully participate in its ministries by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness." In light of that we are foing to make some slight changes to our worship program. First we will begin with some praise choruses, and second we will move our announcements to the end of the service. Announcements will have a new designation: they will be called "Opportunities for mission and ministry." The whole church is called to missions, not just the leaders. Each one is a building stone that helps the entire building take its shape. Be one of those building blocks, take advantage of those opportunities for mission and ministry.
There's a hint of spring in the air. I think. It does seem that this winter has gone on long enough. We have been fortunate that we have not had much snow or cold, but the gray, stormy weather has lasted, it seems, for months. But the robins have returned, the crocus are blooming, and my daffodils and iris are beginning to show signs of life.
Spring is always a wonderful time of year. New life begins. Old, dead things revive. The weather warms and the seasons change. So it is with our spiritual life, as well. As we celebrate Easter we are reminded that our Savior died and rose again. No tomb could contain him. This week (Palm Sunday) we will be looking at Philippians 2, where Jesus, coming to earth, emptied himself, and became like us. He walked here, he healed here, and he taught here. Paul commends us to “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Last week we looked at having the mind of the Spirit rule over the mind of the flesh. And in Romans 12 Paul urges us “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds.” While we talk about taking Christ into our hearts, it is the mind, the thought processes which control what we do and how we do things. This Easter might we be renewed, might our minds be transformed, and might we have the mind of Christ in all we do.
On a historical note: It was on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, one hundred and two years ago, that Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House and the Civil War ended. Pat's great-grand father and great-great grand father were part of the Union forces which blocked Lee's further westward path. And it was on Good Friday, one hundred and two years ago that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater in Washington, D. C.
As spring brightens the air; as the spring flowers begin to emerge and liven up our lawns, may that Spirit of Christ, who humbled himself and became a slave encourage you to follow him and let his mind be in you.
We have certainly had a topsy-turvy winter. One day it is spring and the next it's freezing. I am assured spring will come, eventually. I hope you have avoided most of the colds and flus this season.
We are in the midst of Lent. Lent is a 40 day period, not counting Sundays, prior to Easter. The ancient church used it as a time of preparation of new members who were baptized on Easter. Today we use it as a time of reflection concerning Jesus, and what he did for us at the Cross. During Lent, especially Holy Week, there are some special services which I encourage you to come to. On Maundy Thursday, April 13th, at 6:30 PM we will consider when Jesus inaugurated the Lord's Supper, (Communion). Then on Friday, April 14th, at 6:30 PM we will remember our Savior's death. Easter Sunday morning, early, we will meet to watch the sunrise on that glorius day of Christ's resurrection.
There are many activites and fund-raisers being planned for our church. I encourage you to participate as workers, ehlper and as participants. Our planned giving does not cover our entire budget and these activities help to meet the shortfall. It takes us all to be the church for our families and for our community.
By the time yo receive this Visitor, Pat and I will have been to Washington D.C. to participate in a rally for Standing Rock Sioux tribe as they attempt to save their drinking water supply and ancient traditional burial sites from devastation. Treaty rights, which were approved by our Senate are being neglected. Some think that that is particularly so because this is against Native Americans. A year and a half ago, our Annual Conference had an act of repentance for the way we, as a nation, and as a church have treated our Native American brothers and sisters. This protest, standing together with Standing Rock, is one way we fulfill our stated act of repentance. Pray that what is just and right will be done in this situation.
Tomorros they predict 6-8 inches of snow. Up north in Maine we always called that "poor man's fertilizer." The snow brings down to the ground nitrogen that is in the air. This may be winter's last fling, and with this added boost of water and fertilizer, we will soon see spring break forth.
Have a great spring, and may your church be part of your activities.
Winter has arrived and we certainly had our baptism of snow on the sixth and seventh of January. Since I can walk to church I decided to hold services for those who could get there. Surpisingly 22 folk showed up (in some churches in our conference that would be a full complement of parishioners). I hope everyone was safe and warm during that storm.
We now have a bit of a breather from the busy-ness and activities of Advent. For six plus weeks we are in one of those in-between-times. Lent will begin on March1st with Ash Wednesday. Through Lent there will be a special Bible study ( I haven't decided what yet), as well as several special services. All will be at 6:30 PM. They will be Ash Wednesday, March 1st; Maundy Thursday, April 13th; Good Friday, April 14th; and Easter Sunrise service early on Sunday, April 16th (time to be determined).
What do we do with an in-between-time? We get ready! We know Lent is coming. So we begin to prepare our hearts and minds for that time of reflection, sorrow, and dread. Reflection because we think of all that Jesus did while on the earth; sorrow because we know what ultimately happened to Jesus as he gave his life for us on the Cross; and dread because when Jesus was taken from them, the disciples had no conception of the resurrection or the hope that, that gives us today.
So, as we ready ourselves for Lent, let us look "to Jesus the pioneet and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before hime endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2 NRSV).
I can hardly believe we are half way through December. Where did the Fall go? I am sure you are getting ready, or are already settled into preparations for Christmas, snow, and the cold. We are in a special time of year for the church - Advent. Advent is when we wait for the coming of Jesus as that little baby in Bethlehem, and also wait his coming again. Most of the Scripture readings on these Sundays look more towards that second coming than the first. My sister-in-law sent us something via e-mail, and it went something like this: You will often hear of a baby born to be a king, but have you ever heard of a King that was born as a baby? That sort of sums it up. Jesus' birth was no accident, nor was it planned by human beings. God's Holy Spirit touched Mary and that child, both human and divine was born.
We celebrate a lot during Advent. We have the Advent wreath lighting every Sunday. On the 18th we have our children's pageant. Then on the 24th, Christmas Eve, we have two Candle-light services, one at 6:30 PM, and one at 11PM. Each service will feature Scripture readings and Carol singing, concluding with candle lights surrounding the church.
On Sunday, December 25th, Christmas Day, we will have our regular Sunday service with a decided change. It will be a carol sing and also a sharing time for remembrances of Christmas's Past, Present, and Future. We have been studying "The Redemption of Scrooge" as an Advent study, so those who are participating in that study should be well prepared to share. But I encourage others, too, to come that Sunday to sing and to share as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
It is now September, the kids have gone back to school, and last Sunday we had our Rall Day which began our new Sunday School year. It was great to see a number of children here. Keep them, and their teachers in your prayers as learn about the Bible, Jesus, and what it means to be a church. Summer seems to want to hang on as the temperatures continue to be high, but we know fall is coming with the changing leaves, and the cooler weather.
You'll be hearing a lot about our 100th anniversary celebration. Plan to take part in those events that are coming up. It is important for a church to celebrate where it has been, and where it is going.
As fall begins Bible studies will commence one more. In mid-October I am going to start a class on Methodism. It will have three parts - history, doctrine and polity. If you have always wanted to know more about your church, or just wish to refresh what you have learned in the past, this is the calss for you. At this point I am planning to have the class on Sundays. I am leaning towards doing it in the early afternoon, perhaps right after church. If you have a preference, please let me know.
A second study I am looking at will be for Advent. The title is "The Redemption of Scrooge" It is a Christian look at the Dickens's story "A Christmas Carol".
I am excited for our church, for our look at our past, and our plans for the future. All of this includes you. So join with us on Sunday mornings, come to the Bible studies, and celebrate with us our last 100 years and the coming century.
Summer has arrived - the heat is on! The gardens are growing and the weeds are taking over. I have already had some peas from my patch and this afternoon I plan to pick some yellow beans. Everthing tastes so good coming right from the garden.
Summertime services are going well, too. If you've been away, you have been missed. Don't wait until fall to come again. Things are geating up for our VBS, to be held in the first week of August. Registrations are coming in and we are always looking for volunteers to help share the ministry.
It is not too early to begin to talk about our fall schedule. I am planning to begin a new study in October on Methodism. I call it Methodism 101. In six weeks we will cover Methodist history, doctrine and polity. If it has been a while since confirmation, or if you want a refresher course on what it means to be a United Methodist, this is the class for you. At this point I am planning to have the class on Friday evenings. If that conflicts with you schedule, let me know. If enough folks would find another time convenient, I would change the night.
In the Sunday sermons, from now until the beginning of Advent, I will be preaching on the Old Testament prophets. We have already looked at Amos; the next couple of weeks are on Hosea; and then we go into Isaiah. We divide the prophets up into two sections - Major and Minor Prophets. The title does not mean that the minor prophets are unimportant, just that they are considerably smaller in size than the major ones. In fact, I sometimes find the minor prophets more intriguing, and they often speak more clearly to our own lives today.
Tomorrow, July 22nd begins our 100 days celebration. This year marks the 100th birthday of Union Church. We have decided to set aside a dollar a day from July 22nd, until our celebration party on October 30th. That would make up $100.00. This birthday gift to our church will be designated for replenishing the Turstees Funds. Over the last few years, with the repairs to the fellowship hall and paying off the mortgage for the parsonage, we have depleted our Trustees Funds to a considerable degree. The Church Council decided that using these birthday gifts for that purpose would be beneficial to the life and financial health of the church.
Stay cool! Enjoy these long, warm days, and don't forget your church family.
Last month I perhaps got a bit ahead of myself with my writing of the coming of spring. Even now in mid-April it doesn't seem to have warmed up much. Oh well, summer will come at least by July 4th
Since Easter, and continuing on to Pentecost (May 15th), the sermon Scripture has been in Acts. Acts is the one historical book of the New Testament (in the Old Testament there are 12 - Joshua through Esther). In Acts we see the beginnings of the Church, the body of Christ. It all begins with Peter, and his introduction of the good news to the people of Israel, then to the Samaritans, and finally the Gentiles. The second half of the book is taken up with the missionary journeys of Paul as the good news spread through the Mediterranean basin. Each week we will look at these passages and relate both the historical importance of each as well as how these stories help us in our Christian walk today.
It seems like new folks are worshipping with us almost every week. We welcome you and hope you fins a family and home here at Union UMC. We are always looking for new members, for folks who want to formally join with us in our work in Fall River and beyond. If anyone would like to become a member of the church, please see me, and we can discuss that possibility.
Looking forward there are many things coming up. I discovered a couple of weeks ago that it was in 1916 that two Methodist Episcopal churches in Fall River merged to form the Union Church. Since then, the other Methodist churches in Fall River came together to form one congregation here at Union. Our Leadership Council is planning some birthday celebrations for the fall. Keep tuned in to find out all that we will be doing for our 100th birthday.
During Lent we completed our weekly study on the last week of Christ's life. In the fall, around mid-October Bible studies will begin again, with a short seminar on Methodism - history, doctrine and polity. It will be a good refresher course over how we came to be a church, what we believe, and how we organize ourselves for mission and ministry. Then at the end of November we will have an Advent study. Come and deepen your faith around God's word.
I won't say it too loudly, but I think I have seen hints of spring. My daffodils are poking up out of the ground, and the last two days have seemed more like May than March. I know we could still have some snow, but having seen my first robin, I know green grass is not too far away.
Just a quick reminder of some special services during Holy week. We begin with Palm Sunday, Mar. 20th, at our regular 10 AM service. On Thursday night, Mar. 24th at 6:30 PM, we will celebrate Maundy Thursday, the night Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, in the Fellowship Hall. Good Friday, Mar. 25th, at 6:30 PM we will be in the Sanctuary. On Easter Sunday morning I hope to have a Sunrise Service. I have to look up when dawn is that day before I set the time, and I am also looking for a place where we can see the sunrise. If you know of a good place, let me know.
This month we celebrate Easter, the high point of our Christian Year. Jesus died, but on that Easter Sunday morning he wan't in the tomb. The angel said to the women, "He is not here! He is risen!" Of all the tenets of our faith, this is the central one - our Savior did not stay in the grave, He rose again! The power of the early church was in that affirmation. In our scientific world, with computers, Iphones, and all sorts of technology, we sometimes forget the wonder that those first believers experienced. Jesus not only did not stay in the ground, he also walked among them for forty days, preparing them for the future.
Our God works the same today. With all our gadget we still cannot know what the future hold, but we can know who holds the future. Jesus is alive, not as some power or influence, but as a personal individul who can live within our hearts. May this Easter be a time of renewal for you. As the earth breaks forth into its spring glory, might the glory of the risen Christ shine in your life.
As I compose this note this morning, it is snowing. We have not had too bad a winter, yet, and maybe we will escape a repeat of last's years' storms. In the midst of winter, as the day's begin to lengthen, the Church begins one of its annual festivals – Lent. Lent is a forty day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter, not counting Sundays. The forty days remind us of the period of Jesus' temptation before he began his earthly ministry. In the early church, these forty days were used as a time of preparation for membership into the body of Christ. The candidates were taught, prepared and practiced their faith, and were taken into full membership on Easter Sunday.
We also have our traditions today. Here at Union we have a special theme for the period of Lent. Our theme this year is Gratitude. We want to increase our “Gratitude Attitude.” Small notebooks have been provided for us to note down each day of Lent those things we are grateful for. Sunday's there will be a file card in each bulletin so that we each can share with the congregation one grateful attitude we have had in the previous week. Our theme chorus for Lent comes from “The Faith We Sing” – “Give Thanks”
Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One,
Give thanks because he's given Jesus Christ his Son.
And now let the weak say, “I am strong”;
Let the poor say, “I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us.”
Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One,
Give thanks because he's given Jesus Christ his Son.
Throughout Lent might we have grateful hearts, hearts that are overflowing with the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
There are several special services during Lent. Attend one or several. There will also be a special Bible study comparing the different Gospel accounts of Jesus' last week, from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday. Come, join your Christian family for a time of reflection and growth as we look at the Bible.
I have gotten settled enough so that now I am picking up some tasks that I want to do. The first of these is to write something for each month to go in the newsletter. So, since it's January, this is a good time to start.
We have now traveled through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and the Baptism of Jesus. We have a few weeks of ordinariness until the beginning of Lent. Lent is a 40 day period (not counting Sundays), prior to Easter. The ancient church used it as a preparation period for new members. After the forty days, on Easter Sunday, the new members were baptized and became a full part of the congregation.
Today we use Lent more as a time of reflection. We consider Jesus, who he was, what he did for us, and what we should be doing for him. We will be having several special services during Lent.
First comes Ash Wednesday, Feb 10th. On Ash Wednesday we take the palms we so joyously waved on last year's Palm Sunday, turn them to ashes, and put them on our foreheads as a sign of repentance and a willingness to follow Jesus. Palm Sunday comes the week before Easter. Here we commemorate Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Following Palm Sunday is a period we call Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday we come together to remember when Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper with his disciples. The next day, Good Friday, is perhaps the darkest day of the year for believers. On Good Friday Jesus died on the Cross. Through the weekend we sorrow over our loss, and then on Easter Sunday morning we rise early, symbolically go to the tomb with the women, and discover that Jesus is not there. He has been raised. And then, on Sunday morning, in ther service, we raise our voices in praise and wonder that "we serve a living Savior."
As we prepare for Lent, I will be leading a Bible study on the final week of Jesus's life, from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday.
As we come to Lent, be prepared - prepared to take a journey, prepared to follow Jesus, prepared to rejoice that Jesus is indeed risen.