Dec 27, 2010

Year End Review: From FUMC of Arlington, TX

Here are some things addressed this year by me. Some are good; others kind of zany.

--If we could pass along the gifts to others that God has first offered us, just think of what a redeemed world we would inhabit.

--Spiritually mature people are thankful people.

--God kisses us all and forgets which ones of us are adopted and which ones of us are naturals.

--Doris Mortman once wrote, “Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.”

--“I don’t really go to church. I’m more like a self-healer-type.”

--The ministry theme for our church for 2011 is “Going the Second Mile: Dare to Share.”

--Our youth and their effort were such that every child that the church ministers to (in Russia) received a pair of jeans last year.

--The king then gave an order to the guard: “Release this guilty man. I don’t want him corrupting all these innocent people.”

--Unfortunately, most of our discussion of issues in the public square today are more noisy than rational. Does anyone really listen any more?

--“Is it raining?”

--What would she have said if the church told her that we instruct parents for three years and then we talk about baptism?

--Thank goodness for music—especially this season.

--“The best way of appearing to listen,” he said, “is to listen” (Max Dupree, Leadership Jazz, Dell, New York, 1992, pp. 28-9).

--After all mercy is often pretty cheap to dish out in abundance.

--Will my friends be there? Will I have fun? Will I make some money?

--I want to suggest that if we want to be part of a next great generation, then we mark well the life of the last great generation. Their lives were a blueprint for faith, hope, and love. And this last week of December 2010 is a time for all of us to pause—and to remember.

Welcome, 2011.
Happy New Year: David N. Mosser

Dec 23, 2010

Christmas in Rod Wilmoth’s Honor

My good friend who wrote a wonderful chapter in my new book coming out in April 2011, Rodney Wilmoth, told this amusing and touching Christmas story several years ago.

A certain family had the custom of putting large plywood letters bordered with Christmas lights on their roof each year. The letters spelled “NOEL.” It was an unusual piece of decoration. One year the father was a little slow in getting the letters up on the roof. For this reason, finally late one Saturday afternoon, in mid-December, he got the project under way. The letters were large and hard to handle. It was a very windy afternoon, and he was heard to mutter some rather “un-Christmas-y” comments under his breath as he struggled with the large plywood letters.

When at last he finished, he climbed down the ladder triumphantly, instructing the children to plug in the lights. When the lights came on and blazed against the dark sky, everybody rolled in laughter. He had put the letters backward. Instead of “NOEL,” he had spelled “LEON.”

I never did learn what the errant father did, or said, about the situation. I was afraid to ask, but I think I might have left the letters just as they were. Very few people know what “NOEL” means anyway, although we sing it each year, but everybody knows somebody named “LEON.”

If Leon came by and saw his name in lights on a house, I am sure he would be touched. May you too be touched by the spirit of Leon this Christmas.

Dec 18, 2010

Virginia’s Christmas Question

The following is so precious that during this week prior to Christmas 2010 we might simply stop and ask what does Christmas look like from a child’s perspective over a hundred years ago. From the Editorial Page of The New York Sun, written by Francis P. Church, September 21, 1897 we also see how wise adults were in those days.

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

"Dear Editor--I am 8 years old.

"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

"Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun, it's so.'

"Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon, 115 West Ninety-fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children's are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas from First United Methodist Church of Arlington, Texas!

Dec 8, 2010

Deck the Halls!

Rev. David Jones
By: Rev. David B. Jones
Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church
Atlanta, Georgia

Years ago, in a central European town, the older people could be seen making the sign of the cross as they passed by a certain ordinary-looking wall. When a visitor asked why they were doing this, no one knew.

The visitor was curious. He began chipping away at the layers of whitewash and dirt covering the wall until underneath he discovered a beautiful mural of Mary and the baby Jesus. Generations before, the townspeople had a reason for making the sign of the cross. But succeeding generations had only learned the ritual. They continued to go through the motions, without knowing the reason.

Every Christmas we face the danger of going through the motions without remembering why. So in church we always sing the most famous of all the Advent hymns around this time of year:
O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here.

We tend to think of exile in terms of geographical dislocation. But exile is as much a state of mind and a feeling of the heart as it is a place on the map. To be in exile is to be sent somewhere you don't want to be. To be in exile is to be cut off from the things you want to do or the people you want to be with. To be in exile is to feel wounded, defeated, marginalized, powerless, hopeless.

Chances are you’ve been in exile at one time or another. Maybe you’re there now. If so, do remember what happens in the refrain of that hymn? The feeling and the tone change. We almost shout, "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O, Israel!" That's the great turning point in the hymn and in history.

Back in 1994 my wife and I were delegates to the World Methodist Conference in Rio de Janeiro. It was an experience of amazing contrasts. When we looked out our hotel window in one direction we could see the spectacular beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana covered with beautiful people. When we looked in the other direction we saw the largest favela, or shanty town, in Brazil. Two and a half million people in Rio live in favelas.

Looming over the entire landscape is Mount Corcovado. At the top of the mountain is the 100-foot-tall statue known as “Christ the Redeemer.” As Cathy and I looked at the statue, I remembered a story Andy Kane had told my father. Andy is a YMCA official who had been in Rio a few years ahead of us for a conference on the environment.
Christ The Redeemer

One afternoon he and some colleagues traveled to one of the favelas. Andy said, “We were on the back side of Corcovado, in a sea of slums, where we were introduced to a community worker who’d been there for years. “We looked out over those hovels that weren’t fit for human habitation. We asked the community worker, ‘What about these people?’

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘many of them have long since given up hope. They even look up at the top of the mountain and say, ‘See, even Jesus has turned his back on us.’ Then a smile broke across the woman’s face as she said, ‘But that’s not how it is. You see, Jesus is leading us out of this!’”

That's the message of Advent. Someone is coming who can lead us out of the mess we're in. Someone is coming who can ransom our exiled souls and redeem all of creation.

So deck the halls, and rejoice!

###

The Rev. David Jones is senior pastor of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta, GA.

Dec 2, 2010

Simplicity, Nostalgia, and Christmas Music

When I lived in Liberia, West Africa, one of the most popular songs that year of 1978 was a song by Prince Neco called “Simplicity.” I remember it because along with this Nigerian equivalent to N’sync’s other song, “Sweet Mother,” this song “Simplicity” played over and over and over again on the radio. The urge toward simple times and simple things is irresistible, even for Africans who in some ways might define simplicity for us Americans. We today, even in the West, call for a return to simple ideas and simpler life-styles, although, we defeat our desires by buying into a more hectic, not less hectic, way of doing everything. The Shakers help us put this desire into church music with their hauntingly simple tune our hymnal records as “Lord of the Dance” (#261, The United Methodist Hymnal).

Today we have a multitude of ways to interpret the good news of Jesus via music. Some of you have heard choirs and musical guests present an interpretation of Agnus Dei arranged by Mauldin. The Latin term Agnus Dei means, as you know, “Lamb of God.” Many high liturgical churches today will perform various moving pieces of music by that name. Some are in Latin, while others may be presented in Greek, or even Coptic.

However, with that high church music “heads up,” I ask you to consider another faith witness by the singing group, “The Whites.” They sing “Keep on the Sunny Side” from the award winning Compact Disc, “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”

There’s a dark and a troubled side of life
But there’s a bright and a sunny side too
Though you meet with the darkness and strife
The sunny side you also may view

Keep on the sunny side always on the sunny side
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us every day it will brighten all the way
If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life

Though the storm and its furies rage today
Crushing hopes that we cherish so dear
The clouds and storm will in time pass away
And the sun again will shine bright and clear

Let us greet with a song of hope each day
Though the moment be cloudy or fair
And let us trust in our Savior always
To keep us every one in His care
(A.P. Carter and Gary Garett, performed by the Whites).

This is the season of Advent and soon to turn to Christmas and music is an element that puts a little spring into our step. Thank goodness for music—especially this season.

Nov 25, 2010

Big Debts

I wanted to run this story on my blog this week because it addresses debts we owe others — often debts to persons we do not even know. I have a debt to Tom Butts as he has given me a good deal of guidance down through the years. What I have done with his solid counsel others should not hold against him. He is a peach. Tom is now pastor emeritus at FUMC, Monroeville, AL and visits Harper Lee in a nursing home at least once every week.

Big Debts

By: Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts,
Minister Emeritus, First United Methodist Church, Monroeville, Alabama

Having lived through the Great Depression, I have always been afraid of debt. For most of our 59 years of marriage, my wife and I have been able to avoid buying anything we could not pay for. This is not always possible, but it is an important goal. Our country’s credit card culture has led many into unmanageable debt.

Today is Thanksgiving Day, which is a proper time to think of a kind of indebtedness not measured by the dollar sign. If you live long enough, life will generate circumstances that will cause you to incur debts of a kind and magnitude that they can never be repaid. These are the debts we owe people who helped us when there was nothing we could do for ourselves. These intangible debts are sometimes owed to people we do not even know. It is like what we owe to God; it is so much and of such a kind that it can never be repaid.

Such debts can be repaid only in the currency of gratitude, which, in some ways, is very difficult to express. No matter what you say, there is so much more that needs to be said. Unfortunately, gratitude tends to be a short-lived emotion. People forget to give thanks for those intangible gifts.

Several times in my own life, I have found myself in need. I have been at the mercy of circumstances over which I had no control and somebody helped me. I have been, and am now, indebted to people who have done things for me, things for which there is no way to repay them. It is a unique feeling to realize you can never repay the people who reached out and literally saved you. Let me give you just one example of how I have become indebted. Just one example of someone who helped me in ways I can never repay.

Rev. Butts 1957
When I came home from graduate school in 1957, the South was embroiled in the civil rights struggle. I had planned to avoid any controversy so I could established myself in my new assignment to the Michigan Avenue Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama. I quickly learned one of the realities of life; you do not pick the time and place for important battles, the time and place pick you. The fifth stanza of James Russell Lowell's 1844 poem, "The Present Crisis" comes to mind.
"Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, in the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side; some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight, parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right, and the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light."
Three months after my arrival at Michigan Avenue, I was visited by three men who identified themselves as members of the Klu Klux Klan, as well as members of my church. They informed me that it was custom for the Klan to visit the church on the third Sunday night in September. They would come in the front door during the singing of the first hymn, dressed in full Klan regalia, and march down the center aisle. They would then place money on the altar, go out the side door, remove their robes and come back in to worship. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I was only 27 years old! I had no time to think about how to handle the situation, so I addressed it head-on. I said that though I had no police force with which to stop them, and was not sure I would stop them if I could, they had to understand what I would be forced to do in response. I told them that if they put money on the altar in the name of the Klan, I would sweep it up in an offering plate and throw it out behind them. The third Sunday night in September came and went and the Klan did not come. I thought I had dispatched the problem. Big mistake.

Three months later the black ministers of the city petitioned the City Council to desegregate the city bus system. Two white clergy prepared a petition in support, which I signed. I was young and idealistic. I imagined that as soon as the city fathers, and the citizens of Mobile, became aware of what the clergy felt should be done, they would respond positively and appreciatively. Another big mistake.

The lessons and realities of this situation came quickly and painfully. Among the signs that I had misjudged the local climate in general, and my church in particular, was to find a burning cross in front of the parsonage and a second burning in front of the church. Names of the white clergy who signed the petition were on the front page of the newspaper with a scathing editorial taking us to task for meddling. A sizeable group of my church members met to fire me. (I had to meet with them and explain that you cannot fire a Methodist minister.) Tithes and pledges were withheld from the church, and some members suggested the parsonage be sold and the pastor’s salary cut to just a dollar per year.

The attendance at my church reached an all-time high, and the offering fell to an all-time low. It appeared that my church not only could not pay its apportionments and mission askings, but we were dangerously close to being unable to pay utility bills. Obviously there was no money for the pastor's salary--the pastor who signed the petition to desegregate the city bus system.

One Friday afternoon, as I sat in my office anguishing over the whole situation and contemplating leaving the ministry, a very fashionably-dressed woman walked across the church lawn. I had never seen her before. She came in and asked to see the minister. As I introduced myself, she handed me an envelope and said she wanted to make a donation to my church. She said it was an anonymous gift.

When she left I opened the envelope. It contained two bills with more zeros than I was accustomed to seeing on money. It was two $100 bills. I had never seen a hundred dollar bill! I had heard they existed, but had never actually seen one. (I haven’t seen many since.)

Two hundred dollars was a lot of money in 1958! The total annual budget of my church was only $9,000. I was elated, until my wife asked how I planned to get the money into the system. My church’s officials were suspicious of outside money and would want to know the source of such large bills. I resolved the problem by driving to a bank in Brewton, Alabama, 75 miles north of Mobile, and getting the bills broken down into twenty dollar bills. When the offering was taken each Sunday, I would face the altar and, with every head bowed and every eye closed, I would drop two or three twenties in each plate. That raised the offerings to almost normal levels.

The mysterious woman came every Friday bringing $200 - $500 in hundred dollar bills. I kept the road to Brewton hot getting the money changed into smaller bills - my first experience laundering money. I never found out who the woman was or why she came. My church stayed solvent, and nobody ever knew where the money came from.

This woman literally saved my ministry. I was most grateful, but all attempts to thank her were brushed aside. Gratitude had to move beyond words for any effective expression. For the last 50 years, I have never missed a chance to help ministers in distress. Every time I am privileged to help someone, I whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for the mysterious woman who helped me so many years ago. I wonder if she realized what she did. I wonder if she even remembers. Sometimes I wish I knew who she was so I could thank her for a gift that goes on giving.
Rev. Mosser and Rev. Butts

Most of us, at some time in our lives, have been on the receiving end of gifts which have saved us. Sometimes it was money; sometimes it was an intangible act of kindness and encouragement at a critical time in our lives. Name the people you owe, if you know who they are. Write or call them and tell them how much they meant to you. If they are dead, or you do not know who they are, pass it on to others. Life has a way of giving us opportunities to repay those who have helped us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts is minister emeritus of First United Methodist Church in Monroeville, AL, and has served United Methodist Churches in Florida and Alabama. Rev. Butts has been an active leader in the Civil Rights movement since the mid-fifties. He says that one of the most inspirational events in his experience was a day spent with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shortly after Dr. King came to Montgomery, Alabama. Visit Rev. Butts page on day1.org to find out more about him.

Nov 18, 2010

A Word for Thanksgiving

In the next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For believers, Christian or Jewish, every day is a day of thanks. Yet in our most honest moments we recognize that “thanksgiving” is a tough emotion to manufacture. Most human beings are not born thankful. For another thing, we find it more difficult to give thanks for the present than we do for past things or for what the future holds. Ultimately, truly thankful people who are spiritually mature. However difficult spiritual maturity may be we do know that being mature is not simple. Thus, thanksgiving is something that we know that we ought to feel, but in practice it is a difficult notion to live out daily.

In the book of Revelation, the writer tells us that
“all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen’ ” (Revelation 7:11-12).
Notice that thanksgiving is one of the seven aspects of the heavenly worship of God. But we all know people who see no need to thank God, or any one else for that matter.

In his book, Folk Psalms of Faith, Ray Stedman tells of an experience H. A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant. Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited his to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, “Do you have a headache?”

Ironside replied, “No, I don’t.”

The man asked, “Well, is there something wrong with your food?” Ironside replied, “No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat.”

The man said, “Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!”

Ironside said, “Yes, you’re just like my dog. That’s what he does too!”

As we said, spiritually mature people are thankful people.

Nov 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010

Today is Veterans Day 2010. As I think over my ministry I wish I knew how many soldiers of our Armed Forces I have buried who served our country with distinction. Someone once told me that war was an undertaking that revealed a person’s truest self. So today we stop and pray for both the memories of our war dead as well as for peace. Perhaps the psalmist puts it for us best:

“I am for peace/but when I speak/they are for war" (Psalm 120:7, NRSV).

Tom Brokaw called these folks in his 1998 colossal best seller of the same name “The Greatest Generation.” People in this greatest generation generally had one job their whole life and they did things that no one else wanted to do, but they did them anyway—with a quiet resolve. These folks had an almost fanatical loyalty to their family, to their church, and to their country.

They were ones who understood the phrase from national newspaper masthead (Chicago Sun [-Times]) that proclaimed, “My country—right or wrong!” Perhaps we all now know too much to subscribe to this philosophy, but you have to admit, this kind of blind loyalty to family, church, and country made their generation great. They did so much for so long, that we often forget how wonderful our country and communities are today thanks to them. Tom Hanks, who starred in “Saving Private Ryan,” gives us a good likeness of the values and loyalties that the members of this greatest generation possessed.

I want to suggest that if we want to be part of a next great generation, then we mark well the life of the last great generation. Their lives were a blueprint for faith, hope, and love. And this week of November 2010 is a time for all of us to pause—and to remember.

Nov 6, 2010

The Tradition

During most of November (2010) FUMC, Arlington is looking at the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. When pondering the idea of tradition for the worship series I remembered a funny story about tradition:

During a service at a synagogue in Eastern Europe, when the people prayed the Shema, half the congregants stood and half sat. The half seated shouted at those standing to sit down, and the ones standing yelled at the sitting to stand up . . . .

The rabbi didn’t know what to do. The congregation suggested consulting a homebound 98 year old man; one of the synagogue’s founders. The rabbi hoped the elderly man could tell him temple’s correct tradition. The Rabbi went to the nursing home with a representative of each faction.

The one whose followers stood during Shema said to the old man, “Is the tradition to stand during this prayer?” The old man answered, “No that is not the tradition.” The one whose followers sat said, “Then the tradition is to sit during Shema!” The old man answered, “No that is not the tradition.”

Then the rabbi said, “But the congregants fight continually, shouting about whether they should sit or stand . . . .”

The old man interrupted: “THAT is the tradition!”

***************************
“Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

Oct 30, 2010

All Saints—A Day to Remember

All Saints Sunday means more and more to me as more and more of my friends on this side of the sod are now “the dearly departed.” My friend in Nebraska who is still kicking, Dan Flanagan, once wrote in a sermon about a wonderful book that has merit—especially on a day like All Saints Sabbath.

Dan wrote a decade or so ago about a book, Saints, Sinners, and Beechers, in which Lyman Beecher Stowe tells the story of an occasion when Thomas K. Beecher substituted for his famous preacher brother Henry Ward Beecher at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. Many people in the congregation had come to hear the renowned Henry Beecher preach. When Thomas Beecher appeared in the pulpit, some of the people started for the door. Sensing their disappointment, Thomas Beecher raised his hand for silence and said, “All those who came here this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may withdraw from the church, and all those who came to worship God may remain.”

Of course, when we worship on All Saint’s Sabbath we do not worship any individual but rather we are here to remember that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). We worship to remember those saints who have given us a model by which to live out our Christian faith. It is our prayer that the memory of those saints who have gone before us will help each of us become more faithful to the covenant that God has cut with us.

God wants each one of us in the covenant fold, but God simply invites—God does not coerce, force, or threaten, that is if one understands that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). I like the story that Karl Stegall tells of two brothers who entered the first grade in 1991. One said he was born on January 1, 1984. The other brother said he was born on April 4, 1984.

“That is impossible,” said the teacher. “No,” replied the first brother, “one of us is adopted.”

“Which one?” asked the teacher.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “One day I asked my mother and she kissed us both and said, ‘I forgot.’ ”

Perhaps this is the method by which we become saints. God kisses us all and forgets which ones of us are adopted and which ones of us are naturals.

Oct 16, 2010

The Gathering

Several years ago a family called on me to celebrate a funeral service for their grandmother who once attended the church I pastored. Her health, however, had forced her to move several states away so that her family could care for her in her nursing home. I did not know the woman as she moved from our town over twenty years ago. The family offered modest assistance in helping me prepare an appropriate word for her life. Then a granddaughter remembered that the deceased woman’s Bible was in the car. She asked me if the Bible might help me to prepare. As you would expect, I said, “Yes.”

That evening, as I looked at her old and tattered Bible, I realized that I had a much better portrait of this woman’s life of faith than I ever dreamed. She marked her Bible with hundreds of favorite biblical stories and passages. Also, tucked inside the Bible were letters, cards, and notes written by her grandchildren over the years. Especially moving were the thank you notes written for Christmas and birthday presents given to her grandchildren. I am convinced that these “thank yous,” were this woman’s most prized possessions. Human beings appreciate the tokens of gratitude that others provide.

I want to offer a token of gratitude for persons who are in "The Gathering" with me—that special group of pastors who meet each October from such far-flung places as Midland, MI, Atlanta, GA, Pensacola, FL, Salt Lake City, UT, and many other places. Sometimes our deep and rich relationships are the best ways to show gratitude to others and maybe—to ourselves.

Oct 7, 2010

On Listening and . . . Hearing

In my Navarro College (Midlothian campus) philosophy class this week we read Tom Regan’s essay entitled: “The Case for Animal Rights.” Of course, animal rights in Ellis County generally gets little affirmative press—one of my students even commented that until we read this essay she did not even know that animals had any rights. Certainly for mainstream Texans, many of whom believe that eating meat is a God-given right, this essay was something of an distasteful annoyance. So we debated the issue in class—which every semester seems to get people juices going. To get a flavor for Regan’s essay we read in class it comes as an except of his longer book. I include the following for context:

When it comes to the case for animal rights, then, what we need to know is whether the animals that, in our culture, are routinely eaten, hunted, and used in our laboratories, for example, are like us in being subjects of a life. And we do know this. We do know that many -- literally, billions and billions -- of these animals are the subjects of a life in the sense explained and so have inherent value if we do. And since, in order to arrive at the best theory of our duties to one another, we must recognize our equal inherent value as individuals, reason -- not sentiment, not emotion -- reason compels us to recognize the equal inherent value of these animals and, with this, their equal right to be treated with respect (“THE CASE FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS,” by Tom Regan: From: ANIMAL RIGHTS AND HUMAN OBLIGATIONS [Edited by Tom Regan and Peter Singer. Second edition Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1989], ISBN # 0-13-036864-4).


All of this is to say for many students Regan’s claim consisted of unthought-of concepts until our class discussion. What was amazing was how the students talked past one another. In other words they made arguments from their particularly strongly held point of view while at the same time blatantly not listening to the other people’s positions. And as class wore on the louder the voices in the room got. More volume, less logic.

One of the things I suggested was that our first duty as budding philosophers and thinkers was simply to know what we were talking about. It takes a mature mind to acknowledge another’s perspective, respect it on its face, and yet try to logically and cogently refute it. Unfortunately, most of our discussion of issues in the public square today are more noisy than rational. Does anyone really listen any more?

Sep 30, 2010

Dibs on Certain Times

Many of us can remember that Sunday morning and Wednesday evening were times set aside as “church times.” This meant that no one else—not schools or the Elks or Kiwanis or Girl Scouts or music lessons or “anything else in all creation” could separate us from the time of prayer and worship that we need as human beings.

Today we live in a hectic time and everyone needs a space of quiet tranquility for reflection. But the world now schedules Sunday morning and Wednesday evening as if sacred time is of no importance and of little consequence to our life as human beings. When church folk complain, the world says “who cares in the free market of ideas—you need to carry your own water!”

You can imagine how amused I was when I read what Jennifer Floyd Engel wrote as she was outraged by TCU and SMU daring to play football on Friday night. Her commentary was in Saturday’s Fort Worth Star Telegram (22 September 2010) and in part suggested:

DALLAS -- Let us begin this a.m. with this tiny little rant because it needs saying: Friday's TCU-SMU game was covered under protest, at least by me.

College football should not be played under The Friday Night Lights, not anywhere and certainly not in Texas and certainly not by two coaches who rely heavily on the hard work of the Friday guys to load their teams . . . .

Her point was, of course, that Friday night is sacred to high school football and no one—even SMU-TCU—should infringe on this hollowed time for football under “The Friday Night Lights.” When the church protested this kind of state of affairs with respect to people infringing on “church time” years ago, no one then or now seemed to raise much more than an eyebrow.

Perhaps we should contend for Sabbath on at least Sunday morning. Sabbath keeping achieves two vital outcomes for God’s people. First, God tells God’s people that “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy Sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord.” Sabbath is a day to rest. If we fail to respect the Hebrew seriousness of this injunction hear the rest of this verse: “Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death” (Exodus 35:2). We can thank God we today are not this severe!

Second, Sabbath is a day of remembrance. On the Sabbath we have time and occasion to ponder about what God has done for us. Deuteronomy 5:15 puts it this way, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.” Thus, Sabbath is a day of rest and a day of remembrance. We all need this time. When God completes creation, then God rests. God also invites us to rest as well.

Many things are up for grabs in our world today. Perhaps we should protect our Sabbath time like Jennifer Engel wants to protect Friday night high school football. Each is important, I suppose, in its own way.

Sep 10, 2010

The Apology

I am so sorry but after a fitfull night and little sleep I woke up in a dreadful mood. I discovered I had an irrepressible urge to show my displeasure at life by burning something.

Sep 4, 2010

On Corrupting the Innocent

Sometimes as I go back and read random notes, I discover something that was especially delectable as a slice of human behavior. Recently I ran across one such note.

Lloyd H. Steffen wrote in The Christian Century how when King Frederick II, an eighteenth-century King of Prussia, visited a prison in Berlin, the inmates tried to prove to him how they had been unjustly imprisoned. All except one. That one sat quietly in a corner, while all the rest of the prisoners protested their innocence.

Seeing him sitting there oblivious to the commotion, the king asked him what he was there for. “Armed robbery, Your Honor.”

The king asked, “Were you guilty?”

“Yes, Sir,” he answered. “I entirely deserve my punishment.”

The king then gave an order to the guard: “Release this guilty man. I don’t want him corrupting all these innocent people.”

Every now and then one understands the truth and the truth will set that person free.

Aug 28, 2010

When One is Proud to be a “Blockhead”

One of our fine members—dare I print his name?—[Rick Smith] recently introduced me to Peter Block who is an author and a business consultant. Block lives in Cincinnati, OH. Block says on his web site that he sees his work as concerning empowerment, stewardship, chosen accountability, and the reconciliation of community.

Peter Block has written several best selling books. I mention them because I like it when people mention my books. Among Block’s books are: Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used (1st edition 1980, 2nd edition 1999); Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest (1993), and The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work (1987).

In 2008 Berrett-Koehler published Peter Block’s Community: The Structure of Belonging. After spending several evenings with this jewel of a book, I want to share something that I read. Block writes:
One aspect of our fragmentation is that the gaps between sectors of our cities and neighborhoods; businesses, schools, social service organizations, churches, government operate mostly in their own worlds. Each piece is working hard on its own purpose, but parallel effort added together does not make a community. Our communities are separated into silos; they are a collection of institutions and programs operating near one another but not overlapping or touching. This is important to understand because it is this dividedness that makes it so difficult to create a more positive or alternative future—especially in a culture that is much more interested in individuality and independence than in interdependence. The work is to overcome fragmentation.

This is exactly right in my judgment. Community work is hard work because everyone’s success is tied to everyone else’s success. We all know the temptation to “do our own thing” and let everyone else pull their own weight.

I recollect that when Paul was addressing those obstinate Corinthians he throws at them their own words: “Each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)?

I wonder if Paul ever said out loud—“I belong to you and you belong to me because we all belong together.” I wonder.

Aug 21, 2010

The Tracks We Leave Behind

A few years ago I happened across a newspaper story near Spokane, Washington, while visiting some of Helen’s relatives. The article was about graffiti, but not the kind that “artists” spray in our church neighborhood. It was rather the kind that we could call 1800s graffiti and some workers found the graffiti inside the Washington Monument. Here is the story complete with dateline.

Washington -- Graffiti from the 1800s discovered by workers renovating the Washington Monument has quite a different tone from that usually found today on the sides of buildings and subway cars.

“Whoever is the human instrument under God in the conversion of one soul, erects a monument to his own memory more lofty and enduing (sic) than this,” reads the inscription which can now be viewed by visitors to the monument.

It is signed BFB. No one knows who that is, or who left the small drawings and 19th century dates on other walls.

The markings in the lobby of the monument were covered over when it was decorated at the turn of the century. They were found when workers removed marble wainscoting as part of a yearlong $500,000 renovation which was just completed [Spokesman-Review (P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210), June, 1994].


When I celebrate the life of a Godly person as a pastor at a funeral or memorial service, I habitually scan the gathered congregation—some religious; some not; many not sure—and wonder what sort of evidence or fingerprints has the deceased left on the lives of these people. Sometimes when I think back over 31+ years of ministry, I thank God for so many of the souls who have enriched my life through encouragement or some other manner of human interactive sustenance. It is a blessed thing on this side!

As we live we build a resume of kind words and helpful acts. Ultimately this I think was what Jesus meant when he said to the one asking about the Samaritan: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). After all mercy is often pretty cheap to dish out in abundance.

Aug 14, 2010

Just Saying . . . .

Last week I asked a twenty-something year old what I could write about in the “One Mile Mission” Blog. The twenty-something said: “Anything but religion!”

This was an interesting way to frame the content or anti-content of a blog—“Anything but religion!” I was somewhat vexed by the response as the question was deadly earnest. Yet the more I thought about it and looked around, listened to people, and read things in the newspaper, I realized that many of the issues that “religious people” seem to be hung up on have little or no interest for college age students and younger.

Our poor young people are so idealistic and optimistic that they think when the church sings “Let there be peace on earth—and let it begin with me” that we really mean it. When I read some of the hateful rants in the newspaper about various groups both religious and otherwise, I have to scratch my head. When I read about good Christian people saying that a mosque is a symbol of killing Christians this makes about as much sense to me as saying that Fred Phelps is a mainline Christian leader. Phelps, as you may remember, is the pastor who said: “You can’t preach the Bible without preaching hatred.” As one website puts it: “Fred Phelps: Giving Christians a bad name since 1929.”

Thus my young friends, if they think that all we do in the church is talk about who is wrong about religion, I can understand their point. Their point of view reminded me of what Thomas Cahill said a few years ago. Cahill, the author of a series of best-selling books that explore the hinges of history, said something quite remarkable during an interview, recorded in The Dallas Morning News. Although I do not agree with the quotation wholly, Cahill’s perspective does give us reason for a slight ironic pause. Cahill remarked, “In general, institutions tend to do the opposite of what they claim to do. Banks make people poor, schools make people ignorant, hospitals make people ill. And churches make people evil” (Dallas Morning News, Religion Section, Jeffery Weiss, “Longest Story Ever Told,” pp. 1-2G).

I think my young friends would not be so down on religion if we did not resort to in-fighting, finger-pointing, and trash-talking other people and their beliefs quite so much. After all we do follow a messiah who said once: “. . . love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked” (Luke 6:35).

In order to counterbalance this perhaps not so unfair characterization of religion in general and the church in particular, perhaps we ought to practice what Jesus preached and follow Jesus’ commandment. If you forgot the commandment it is simply this: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Jesus always has a way of assaulting our prejudices.

Just Saying . . . .

Aug 8, 2010

“The Dog Days of August”

Being pastor of Arlington’s First United Methodist Church brings me such joy. As I watched our students lead our worship this past weekend I could not help but feel the pride well up. The adult leaders who work with our youth and students do a remarkable job and we are fortunate to have them. Make sure and give them a pat on the back.

In fact just last week we also had a wonderful Vacation Bible School for our youngsters and what a marvelous time they had learning about Jesus and the historic faith in fun ways—crafts, snacks, the Bible—what could be better. This is yet another example of the good work our church staff does with spiritual formation at every age-level in this church and we should be so proud of our folks who lead and sacrifice for the Kingdom. The adult volunteers were outstanding in their ability to put their own needs and wants aside for the sake of our children. This is what agape love is all about.

I hope you will join me in encouraging the many amazing ministries that take place thanks to our staff and dedicated lay folks. Offer someone a good word today. Tell them you appreciate their efforts. It is a good thing to stand close to these folks and soak up their spirit!

Jul 22, 2010

“Sorry about that, God”

I have a pastor friend, who for effect, once stood before his congregation at Sunday morning worship and said, “Friends, I want to apologize to you this morning. I have no sermon. I hope you will forgive me, but as all of you are aware this week has just had too many emergencies in it for me to sit down and work on my sermon. We have had two funerals and two emergencies surgeries. On top of these breaks in my normal week’s work, we also had Vacation Bible School. I was called into several urgent counseling situations. I hope you will understand my failure to prepare. I’ll try to do better next week.” The pastor then took a seat. The organist and the rest of the congregation sat frozen. No one had ever seen anything like this. No one moved—they did not know what to do.

Then my pastor friend, after about sixty extremely painful seconds, got back up and said, “This is what God must feel like when we tell God we are just too busy to attend to the world God has created.” My friend went on to preach a superb sermon on how God may not need us, but how God wants us to be covenant partners with God in working out our salvation with fear and trembling. This preacher said we witness to our faith by the way we live, love, and work in God’s world. The sermon turned out to be very powerful indeed. "Just sayin'."

Jul 17, 2010

“Avoiding the Summer Slump”

My friend, pastoral comedian Michael Duduit, wrote an article outlining the way that pastors can boost summer church attendance. Among his suggestions were door prizes for Sunday morning worship, free pizza to the first 250 congregants, and a sermon series based on popular movies—“Despicable Me,” or “Toy Story 3.” Perhaps it is sad that his comedy has such an element of truth in it. Many churches do run at far less than 100% during the summer. I suppose that is to be expected. People all attend family reunions, go on vacation, or have weekend family outings during the months of June, July, and August. We all do need to get away from time to time.

I want to offer a word of praise for those in the congregation, however, who help us continue the church’s work through the hot and long dog days of summer. Many people do attend worship and Sunday school. Many people do help keep the church’s finances afloat even while vacationing in New Mexico, Colorado, or Iowa. Many people do continue to teach and shepherd—even when we often operate with a skeleton crew of leaders during the summer months. For this I thank you—the faithful congregation of FUMC, Arlington.

Accordingly, although the church may look dormant in these hot summer day, there is work being done so that the gospel can continue to be proclaimed through the ministries of our congregation. Thanks be to God.

Jul 9, 2010

The Dream Ball Project

On something of a “mission roll” this summer, my son gave me a copy of Sports Illustrated for Kids (May 2010) and I saw an amazing idea. The idea was what a Korean company is calling the “The Dream Ball Project.” It is a simple concept and “kills two birds with one stone” or as Sunny in Concord, CA puts the killer phrase in a gentler, kinder way: “Love two people with one heart.” Here is the idea.

Children in what we call the third world, i.e., Tanzania, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Congo, etc, often cannot play soccer/football freely because of poverty, war, or natural disasters. In their life of scarcity even having a football means a lot and can be a way of dreaming and a hope for temporary escape. Children in poverty-stricken areas have no choice but to play with an improvised homemade soccer ball made of plastic bags or coconut palm leaves. These homemade balls often fall apart, but when made of sturdier stuff often damage and hurt the children’s bare feet.

We all know (especially in this crazed World Cup Soccer Month) that kids from Cambodia to Kenya to Columbia love soccer. Thus, the Korea-based design studio, Unplug Design, wanted to address this difficulty and bring the game of soccer to kids all over the world with an innovative plan that turns aid boxes into soccer balls and more. The Dream Ball Project’s boxes use durable heavyweight cardboard and come with illustrated instructions on how to create a range of different sized balls. This is inspiring ingenuity at its finest.

The Dream Ball Project is an amazing demonstration of how packaging can impact humankind in a positive way—increasing quality of life, ensuring a second life to a box, and forming a bond between people and nations.

These children play soccer in these countries with bare feet. So, Unplug Designs uses paper that can be recycled. The paper’s thickness changes the intensity and elasticity of each Dream Ball. They even come in a variety of sizes for use by children of many ages.

Consequently the bottom line is that innovative people can use shipping material in cardboard boxes so that when the box’s primary use is fulfilled the boxes can then be fashioned into soccer balls and used again for children in third world countries. Creativity meets need in a spectacular way.

Can we be this creative as we go the Second Mile in Mission?

Jul 2, 2010

Book People 3

The past two weeks in the e-mail blast and also in the pastor’s blog for FUMC, Arlington, we shared a story about the “Book People” (Adult Library Committee). As a “Go the Second Mile” mission project they called their venture: The Book Carnival.

When the “Book People” arrived at the Center Street Activities Building early—early on 29 May 2010, several stacks of books greeted them. Those books brought the count up to 2234 at the moment of opening of the Book Carnival—an impressive number considering that only a few weeks before the group had only slender hope for this kind of response—What a wonderful congregation!!!!!!!

This is part of the description of the event itself . . . Books are stacked on tables for children’s selection. Colorful signs cover the walls of the room. Smiling docents are ready to greet children and families. Balloons and signs announce the Book Carnival. The Boys and Girls Clubs, the Arlington Library, and FUMC’s Summer Camp have brochures and greeters ready with information. A special table with books written in Spanish is part of the fiesta atmosphere. Supper kits are stacked on shelves ready for visiting families. Snack bags and beverages await children. A question hangs in the air: Will anyone come?

“A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.” This quotation by Mark Twain describes the feelings of the volunteers as families walked into the room. They kept coming. Each child was given a colorful fabric bag with games, crayons, and coloring books. Each child found four or five books and placed these in the bag along with snacks and beverages. Families asked questions about summer events and the library. We borrowed from FUMC’s Food Pantry to provide enough Supper Kits. Volunteers were stunned . . . and grateful. Children and families arrived just before 10:00 a.m. and until 2:00 p.m. when The Book Carnival closed with only a few books remaining. These remainder books The Book Carnival sent to the Arlington Night Shelter, the Salvation Army, and the Women’s Shelter.

Children and families were so gracious—thanking volunteers for the books and gifts. We were grateful for their courteous presence. During one moment when the room was exceptionally crowded, one little girl about three or four years old sat on the floor amidst all of the feet and legs, opened her book, and then began to read. Wonderful! Several children stopped just outside and sat on the steps, examined the contents of their bags, opened their books, and enjoyed snacks.

After The Book Carnival, the “Book People” (Adult Library Committee) sent thank you notes to all of the stakeholders. Their contributions in money, books, tasks, and time made this event a genuinely Arlington FUMC “Go the Second Mile” mission.

As for the leftover books, the “Book People” delivered four or five book boxes each to the Night Shelter, the Salvation Army, and the Women’s Shelter. These ministries, of course, were thrilled. As a result, even more children received gift books. Summertime reading is a now reality for many children in our immediate neighborhood and we as a church are connected in new ways to our closest neighbors.

What is most gratifying is that the “Book People” have received calls regarding additional contributions. The “Book People” now face decisions regarding future events and for storage—Blessings all around. I think the “Book People” are up to the task and great thanks go to them—that is the “Book People.”

Paul suggested what in all things that we be thankful. Thankfulness does not describe this blessed experience. We as a church had a wonderful opportunity to provide fellowship and books for gentle neighbors. We are thankful. May God continue to bless the work.

Jun 22, 2010

Book People II

We made known last week about our enthusiasm concerning our group of FUMC, Arlington library patrons that we call the “Book People” (Adult Library Committee: Verna Brown, Mitzi Busick, Ann Watley, and Rita Martin). Using great enterprise and common sense, they launched a “Go the Second Mile” mission project that was a venture of just the sort I hoped would come about when our church first launched the “One Mile Mission” last year. They called their project: The Book Carnival.

As I wrote last week in the e-mail blast and on my blog, it all started when these four book lovers accepted the “Going the Second Mile” challenge. In the January the group decided to put books into the hands of our neighborhood children. Having books available for summer reading would enhance literacy and delight many children.

Then the idea really exploded. Rev. Kay Lancaster further proposed that we invite our faith community to contribute new or gently used children’s books. Several young children designed posters asking for wider assistance. The artists could see their posters placed around the church. Four book baskets were ready to receive contributions. Church leadership offered a date: 29 May 2010 at the Center Street Activities Building. Yet, not a lot happened in terms of help. We told each other not to be discouraged. People were busy with Easter.

Meanwhile, local churches, the Arlington Friends of the Library, and Half Price Books held special sales. We were their best customers. “The Book People and Associates” circumnavigated the two mile radius around the church’s altar and found many needy places for books and the people to read them. We decided that free books might not be the best or only enticement for the neighborhood to come to FUMC, Arlington. We added free food—we could surely use some of the monies for snacks. And, then, thanks to Mitzi’s idea we added Supper Kits for families who attended the Book Carnival.

How to get the word out to the community? We designed lawn signs and flyers. We posted updates were posted around the church regarding The Book Carnival. Books were stacked in the baskets. People were getting excited!!!

“The Book People and Associates” wrote letters to area elementary schools, Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Night Shelter, and called the Women’s Shelter telling them about this event—The Book Carnival. We sorted books. Young children drew pictures for book plates that announced the book as a gift from First United Methodist Church of Arlington, Texas.

In early May, during a “One Mile Mission” Minute (or two!) “The Book People and Associates” shared a progress report with the faith community. We had just over 1000 books. We had snacks. We had books still coming in. We had people asking to volunteer. We had financial contributions from Sunday School Classes and individuals. Volunteers helped classify books by age-reading ability. Amazing Grace and teen groups placed book plates in books. Volunteers distributed flyers, placed lawn signs, walked the streets and talked with folks about the event. We were now ready for the big day . . . but more about that next week!

Jun 16, 2010

Book People

Ray Bradbury wrote a book titled Fahrenheit 451, presumably because it is at that temperature that paper burns and Bradbury’s book is about books and burning. It is a futuristic story and I stumbled upon it because the name of my favorite bookstore in Austin is “Book People.” Bradbury’s book describes a colony of itinerant book lovers in his fictional account of near-the-end-of-the-world proportions. In the book a self-indulgent and anti-intellectual America has entirely forsaken self-control. Thus the book people are the last vestige of both decency and sanity—measures of civilization. A recent film starring Denzel Washington called “The Book of Eli” reminded me of Fahrenheit 451 in certain respects.

All of this is to say that this summer our own merry band of “Book People” (Adult Library Committee: Verna Brown, Mitzi Busick, Ann Watley, and Rita Martin) launched a “Go the Second Mile” mission project that was a venture of just the sort I hoped would come about when we first launched the “One Mile Mission” last year. They called their project: The Book Carnival.

It all started when these four women [named above]accepted the “Going the Second Mile” challenge. In the January Adult Library Committee summit, the group decided it would be a good idea to put books into the hands of neighborhood children. Having books available for summer reading would enhance literacy and also delight many children who rarely receive gifts of things as exotic as books. John Wesley taught the coal miners’ children at Kingswood, England to read using the Bible as a text—thus the FUMC book people simply recycled a two century old Wesleyan strategy.

As the "Library People" put their plan together several questions emerged: How many books? Where to find the funds? Is this too big a challenge? Is this an impossible task? Yet, as the committee moved nearer a line of attack, these questions did not seem to matter. The Book Carnival idea was born. Once the design was proposed problem solving took over. Alphonso Rincón said, “The definition of the impossible is that for which there is not idea or thought” (Rincón founded Fathers Active in Communities and Education in 2003—a mission to transform education). Well, the thoughts were in the committee’s mind and that was all that mattered!

They began with $1000 and thought: “What a lot of money” and “How many books will that money purchase?” The “FUMC Book People” figured with help from our resident librarian that the cost would be about $5.00 a book and they could purchase 200 books for the neighborhood. They divided the money—each member of the committee could spend $200 dollars with $200 left over for incidentals.

Over the next weeks I will share in two other installments what happened, but mostly I share this story to illustrate that if a committee of four persons can pull off a mission project like this, then what more can our church creatively do to interface with our community. It was a beautiful thing! Not only that but our Adult Library Committee was like the book people because Fahrenheit 451 ends with the Book People moving off toward the city to search for survivors and to help rebuild civilization—or in this case help build the Kingdom of God in a downtown Arlington neighborhood.

Jun 5, 2010

Imagine No Malaria

Last week at the Central Texas Annual Conference held at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Coliseum we voted to support the world wide mission program we titled “Imagine No Malaria.” As an annual conference we learned that every thirty seconds a child dies from malaria. As sad as that is, it is even more tragic that malaria is a disease that is preventable and treatable. America eradicated this pernicious disease in the 1950s. Yet today nearly 90% of deaths from malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

Our Central Texas Annual Conference raised $135,276 with the Nothing But Nets Annual Conference offering in 2007, resulting in 13,527 bed nets now providing protective coverage for families in Africa! In fact our own church, FUMC, Arlington raised over $27,000 of that by ourselves—first in the Annual Conference. I was so proud of our church I was beside myself.

“Imagine No Malaria” is now the next step in our goal of ending suffering and death from this avertable disease. “Imagine No Malaria” continues to include nets for beds, but expands into other areas of deterrence, action, education, and the conveyance of life-extending information.

Central Texas’ goal for the 2010 Annual Conference offering is about $164,000. You may make any contribution you like through our local church. During the 2010 Annual Conference (June 6-9 in Fort Worth) we will report our conference’s total gift. The “Imagine No Malaria” offering will continue until we reach our Conference goal of $1 per member. We anticipate a celebration of this accomplishment by June 2011!

Imagine No Malaria is something that would be noble for all of us disciples of Jesus Christ to imagine. As we continue to move and grow in mission and ministry I hope that we will always remember that as a church of 5000 well educated and fairly well-heeled people, that we have an amazing array of resources for our immediate community and for our world. May God continue to help us use them (and steward them) wisely!

As one of my heroes, John Wooden, once said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

Jun 3, 2010

What is a Methodist Annual Conference: Part II?

In our last blog/blast I wrote about what an Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is. As a refresher, an Annual Conference is a regional body that governs much of the life of the broader or “Connectional Church.”

The Annual Conference is the chief unit of our denomination’s government. Regional groups of conferences within the United States make up the Jurisdictional Conferences, and outside the United States they make up the Central Conferences. The entire group of all annual conferences makes up the General Conference which meets every four years. Only the General Conference can speak officially for the church.

The 2010 Central Texas Annual Conference meets the week of June 6-9, in Fort Worth. The Annual Conference is composed of an equal number of clergy and laity. Each charge conference elects as many lay members to the Annual Conference as they have ministers appointed to that charge. In most cases that is one. The Lay Member must, at the time of election, be a Professing Member of the United Methodist Church for at least two years and four years an active participant in the church. The Central Conferences may waive this requirement for those fewer than 30 years old as the General Church waives the requirement for newly organized churches.

The Annual Conference also consists of a number of “at-large” members, also known as “additional lay members,” the number of at-large members being the number necessary (after the members elected by charge conferences are seated) so that the laity and the clergy are equal in number. First seated among at-large members are lay persons holding certain lay positions or offices designated by the Book of Discipline or by the Annual Conference itself. Among those officers are the lay leaders of the conference and each of the districts within the conference, as well as the Conference presidents of the United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women, the young adult organization, the college student organization and the youth fellowship. Also all the diaconal ministers, home missioners, and the deaconesses under Episcopal appointment are lay members. When there are multiple congregations in a charge conference, the General church encourages members from each congregation to become at-large members.

I write of these matters because it is through this means that our church makes its decisions for our church. Some churches have a select group of laypeople or in some cases clergy who make virtually every decision for the church. Methodist Churches could not be any more democratic in decision making. For this reason alone our church, when it debates things, seems as wide open as it could be. This is the way we are.

Pray for our delegates and clergy as we enter the exciting process that we call the Annual Conference.

May 14, 2010

What is a Methodist Annual Conference?

The second week of June our pastors and lay leaders will attend the 2010 edition of Annual Conference in Fort Worth. As several bothers and sisters ask me each year what Annual Conference is, then let me provide something of an answer. An Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is a regional body that governs much of the life of the broader or “Connectional Church.”

There are many Annual Conferences in world Methodism and they are composed primarily of the clergy members and lay member(s) from each ecclesial charge. On occasion people ask “what is a charge?” The answer is that a charge is one or more churches yoked together and served by a minister under Bishop Lowry’s appointment (in our Central Texas AC case). Generally every annual conference is a geographical division. In Texas we have five annual conferences with the Rio Grande Annual Conference superimposed over several others.

Next week in the blast/blog we will further explore the unique church structure that Mr. Wesley gave us Methodists, but this year one exciting things that will happen is with regard to missions—and we are a “One Mile Mission” Church—concerns wiping out Malaria as a dreaded world disease.

The Central Texas Conference’s Mission Leadership Team selected at their annual meeting March 6 “Imagine No Malaria” for the 2010 Annual Conference offering. Our launch date of April 25 coincides with World Malaria Day with a special emphasis at the 2010 Annual Conference June 6-9 in Fort Worth and a continuation throughout the year and beyond.

Pray for all our delegates as we represent a great church—FUMC, Arlington, Texas.

May 8, 2010

Parking Woes for the Able Bodied

In the last eight months FUMC, Arlington, TX has set aside two entire Sunday morning worship times to Special Needs Christians—which is all of us in many ways. I remember September 2009 when Tim Caldwell, as our special speaker, told the congregation that the first Sunday he visited us I asked him (as he rolled in his wheelchair through the sanctuary door) “Is it raining?” Because he was absolutely soaking wet as the nearest place to park was about one hundred yards from the sanctuary, Tim got a big kick out of my obviously tongue-in-cheek idiotic question.

It was obviously raining, but I asked Tim about the rain so he would not ask me why our able-bodied church members had parked vehicles in so many of the handicapped parking spaces. I would have told him “it must be visitors,” but one of our best members even confessed to me that he parked “illegally” because he did not want to get wet. I guess I just did not want to face up to the fact that sometimes people with handicapping conditions simply are an inconvenience for a few of our most important citizens—which brings me to Tweed Clark. I am sure Ms. Clark is a very nice person. But she wishes that those pesky people with handicapping conditions would not be such a nuisance to her. There is a reason I want you to see Ms. Clark at her affronted best.

Our talented church member/reporter Susan Schrock wrote a story about Tweed Clark several weeks ago in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And from what I can tell the outcry was so great against Ms. Tweed that Susan (who was merely the messenger) has been in hiding ever since. Here are the opening lines of the article and it fixes our context:

Tweed Clark stopped briefly at the Arlington Municipal Court to pay her daughter's $250 speeding ticket. So, how did Clark end up with a $640 parking violation of her own?
Clark admits that she parked in a yellow-striped space next to a handicap space for a few minutes March 8 but said she never saw a "no parking" sign until after an officer pointed it out to her while writing the ticket.
In Arlington, the fine for blocking access to a handicap parking space — the violation for which Clark was cited — is the same as for illegally parking in a handicap space.
Clark, who is fighting the citation, said she has written and called Mayor Robert Cluck and other city leaders asking them to consider reducing the fine. She also wrote a jeer in the Star-Telegram calling the city "crazy" for how much it charges.
"It's outrageous," Clark said. "I wasn't driving drunk. I wasn't speeding in a school zone"
Clark, who has hired an attorney, said she wants to raise awareness about her costly mistake.
"I felt like the whole city of Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth should hear about it," Clark said of writing to the Star-Telegram. "I have told everybody in the city. I've got such a big mouth” (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/04/28/93012/everythings-bigger-in-texas-like.html#ixzz0nLkUTkRa).


We celebrate Special Needs Sunday at FUMC, Arlington on occasion to remind our able bodied church folks that sometimes believers and worshippers with handicapping conditions want to participate in the life of their church. Yet they have difficulty walking a long way. Some are older, some are in wheelchairs, and some are on walkers or canes.

I will freely admit there is no Bible verse about where to park, or about parking at all. Yet as people of faith, whether we are teenagers or adults who can still walk a ways, should we not be sensitive to those who struggle to come to church? I applaud them and ask that we not make it any harder for them than it already is.

As Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

May 1, 2010

Mother’s Day

This week I simply want to share a couple of delightful things I have heard or read the last decade or so. Perhaps there is nothing profound here, but with mothers and fathers it is all profound at one level or another. I hope this lifts your day.

*************

Do you remember Bill Cosby’s comments about the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Mothers are organized. They give their children a list of what they want, and then say, “Now go get the money from your father and you surprise me on Mother’s Day. You do that for me.”

As Cosby told it, “On Father’s Day I give each of my five children $20 to go out and buy me a present. They buy two packages of under shorts for $5 each—and each package has three shorts. They unwrap the packages, wrap each pair of shorts separately.” Cosby concludes, “On Father’s Day, I am walking around in new underwear and my kids are walking around with $90 in change in their pockets.”

************
Another story about the Festival of the Christian Home:

My sister had been ill, so I called to see how she was doing. My ten-year-old niece answered the phone.
“Hello,” she whispered.
“Hi, Honey. How’s your mother doing?” I asked.
“She’s sleeping,” she answered, again in a whisper.
“Did she go to the doctor?” I asked.
“Yes. She got some medicine,” my niece said softly.
“Well, don’t wake her. Just tell her I called. What are you doing, by the way?”
Again in a soft whisper, she answered, “Practicing my trumpet.”

May God grant us a blessed time with our family this May.

Apr 24, 2010

The Irony of It All

Recently, I was reading a book re-recommended to me by Estee titled The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene H. Peterson who readers best know for his paraphrase of the Bible called The Message. Some of our church’s pastors had a reading group for about six weeks in which we discussed the book’s core content. In a nutshell it reminds pastors that just being busy is not a faithful answer to God’s call. We know that for example that doing the right things is as important as doing things right. Because we can never be “enough” for our congregation guilt and regret too often lead us down a path on which we would rather not travel.

What Peterson tries to help pastors with, and I suggest all of us can take a clue from him, is to return to the essentials of faith. For ordained ministers this simply means returning to prayer, scripture study, and having holy conversations with believers who are seeking spiritual direction. Clearly, the tempting distractions that surround us constantly we cannot simply ignore—they press us down on all sides. Yet it is good for someone like Peterson to remind us that we are more than those who run an institution—we are people set apart for God’s serious work of making broken people and a sick world whole and healthy again.

Imagine after reading this kind of “heavy stuff” I noticed an article tucked in the back of the Peterson book that someone had anonymously (I now know why anonymously) slipped to me. Here is the gist of a much longer commercial notice:

Many people in the U.S.—perhaps 20 million to 40 million—believe there will be a Second Coming in their lifetimes, followed by the Rapture . In this event, they say, the righteous will be spirited away to a better place while the godless remain on Earth. But what will become of all the pets?

Bart Centre, 61, a retired retail executive in New Hampshire, says many people are troubled by this question, and he wants to help. He started a service called Eternal Earth-Bound Pets that promises to rescue and care for animals left behind by the saved.

Promoted on the Web as “the next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World,” the service has attracted more than 100 clients, who pay $110 for a 10-year contract ($15 for each additional pet.) If the Rapture happens in that time, the pets left behind will have homes—with atheists. Centre has set up a national network of godless humans to carry out the mission. “If you love your pets, I can't understand how you could not consider this” (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine).


When we lay bare, side by side, Peterson and “pet salvation in a Post Rapture World,” I can understand that non-believers might be a little hard pressed as to what to make of this religion business. This suggests that people like us may make all the difference.

Apr 16, 2010

I’m Just Saying . . . .

Last fall as our congregation had our maiden voyage into the teeth of the new stadium and I addressed all the parking and traffic issues we might face, I got some random grumbles about me preaching about football. For those of you who do not have the spiritual discernment of irony or careful reading, I want to tell you the following article is about Sunday school and not professional football! Savvy?

In 1969 Joe Namath, alias “Broadway Joe,” turned the football world upside down by leading his New York Jets to victory over the legendary Johnny Unitas [and Earl Morrall] and the Baltimore Colts.

Joe Namath had a reputation as a party-guy and man about town. When he purchased a restaurant in New York that was frequented by unsavory characters and big-time gamblers, no one was surprised. At the time, the commissioner of the National Football League was Pete Rozelle. Rozelle told Namath to sell the restaurant because it tarnished the image of the NFL.

Namath refused. Rozelle, however, would not relent in his insistence that Namath sell. A confrontation was inevitable. Suddenly Namath called a news conference. He announced, “I have changed my mind. I will sell.”

The media-types were dumbfounded. They insisted on an answer. “Why are you selling?”

“I remember a lesson my Sunday school teacher taught me,” was the reply. He then left the interview room.

This article is seriously about Sunday school and the impact you teachers have on youngsters!

Apr 10, 2010

Worship (Third in a Series on Revisiting 2005 Goals)

A few weeks ago I ran across a piece that I wrote titled “Some Things to Ponder in 2005.” We ran that article as a response to those who had asked me to record my personal goals for our church mentioned in that week’s sermon. Now five years later I have gone back to see how we have done. In evangelism we have been okay meeting our arbitrary goal of 150 new church members two out of the five years. Yet we are on track to realize this self-imposed goal with a new group of folks and under Rev. Valendy’s capable leadership.

In terms of our mission goal with the “One Mile Mission” and our “Go the Second Mile” we have all the missional direction we need to continue to push our best piece of ministry forward. Michelle Clark continues to inspire our congregation and offer solid leadership with her passion for reaching out and helping our church connect with our immediate community.

Thus for today I want to revisit the third of my personal goals for 2005 now that it is 2010. Our worship is solid but has too few people participating for the size of our church. Some of the reason is that many of the people I have celebrated funerals for were immovable about attending worship. We have not replaced with new attendees these several hundred people. It seems that in our modern culture worship is not as essential as it once was. Maybe an implosion of a stadium kept some away; maybe it was a soccer tournament; maybe it was a vacation; perhaps it was brunch with our Sunday school class. Whatever the reason, worship is not as vital to us as it once was—and this hurts the Body of Christ here known as FUMC, Arlington.

I once heard Fred Craddock say something to the effect that in our world today the “criteria questions” used by people to decide whether or not to do something were these:

Will my friends be there?
Will I have fun?
Will I make some money?

If there are any “no” answers to these three questions then the person will not chose to participate. I would hope that we might understand worship as the time that the church most fully “gets together.” This means that we put aside the “utility aspects” or “functional facet” of fun and money for an hour. Rather we sing and pray and listen as people who want to become friends with our fellow church members and believers in worship.

We in worship practice perhaps internally what it means to be a church. We cannot offer to others what we ourselves have not received. Someone ask me recently why I couldn’t get more people to attend worship. Curious, I discovered that over the past decade our worship attendance has not been much better or much worse than it is now—with the exception of course of the people we have lost to death and miss very much.

I hope and pray that we as a church (the whole assembly) address this worship issue and not simply lay it at the feet of someone else. We as a church need to accept our part of our own historic vows to support the church with our prayers, PRESENCE, gifts, service, and witness. This issue of worship attendance is our issue as a church. Historically we have performed remarkably poorly in this area of being stewards of our worship presence. We are much stronger as a congregation when guests and visitors sense that worship is important to the life of our congregation. And of course, saying this, the wrong 1000 people usually hear or read this news—and for that I apologize.

On a brighter note our worship numbers for Easter this year were strong as we compare them with previous years:

2005 2081
2006 1947
2007 1833
2008 1668
2009 1658
2010 1969

Thus for the past five years we have the strongest Easter worship numbers this year and 311 more people attended than the previous year. This is encouraging.

As we begin our seventh year together as congregation and pastor, I cannot thank you affectionately enough for the potential that we have as a church. I pray we continue on the path which we have begun, and with God’s providential guidance, perhaps we can continue to become a community of love, a place of forgiveness, and a beacon of hope.

Apr 3, 2010

It is Great to Have a Mission (Second in a Series on Revisiting 2005 Goals)

If it is great to have a mission, then it must be greater still to have a vision by which to fulfill the mission.

A reason I press our church (FUMC, Arlington, Texas) so hard for mission is because without purpose we sooner or later end up living hollow lives—not the hallowed lives to which God calls us. As believers we make meaning from God’s grace and sharing it—not only to the world but to our own immediate neighborhood too! Our community is both near and nearer. So we offer you mission areas of either the one or two mile boundary variety. Perhaps some of our people weary of “good-deed-doing,” but those folks do not even know I have a blog so . . . .

It is hard for me to understand how one can believe in Jesus and not be in mission to God’s world and people. J. Howard Edington once said: “People who don’t believe in missions have not read the New Testament. Right from the beginning Jesus said the field is the world. The early church took Jesus at his word and went East, West, North and South.” There is a command and a direction for us.

This urgent business of mission, vision, and meaning came to me the other day when I read an on-line web article by Judy Rushfeldt. I do not know Judy or where she is from, but her words struck me as especially fitting for people like us who are in “mission.” She wrote:

Last year, I attended a seminar where the attendees were asked to define their personal mission or purpose in one sentence. Out of about a group of about three hundred people, fewer than a dozen were able to articulate a mission statement.

It’s not that living with purpose is a low priority for most of us. Research by Richard J. Leider and David Shapiro, authors of Repacking Your Bags, found that the number one deadly fear of most people is “having lived a meaningless life” (from an on-line article http://ezinearticles.com/?Writing-a-Mission-and-Vision-Statement&id=24990).


We do not need to look back in the year 2050 and say “We once had a chance to be a great church.” Rather Jesus’ command to make disciples is one we can fulfill today. We have now the opportunity to do faithful and effective ministry both as a “One Mile Mission” and as we “Go the 2nd Mile” (see Matthew 5:41). In fact we fuel our mission by our vision. This vision comes from God and Jesus who assigns us to make disciples. We are making inroads into our neighborhood. Those who passed out Easter egg publicity flyers clearly demonstrated these inroads. When not a few neighborhood folks came, we made them welcome at our Easter egg hunt and picnic. We welcomed/loved the stranger (Deuteronomy 19:19)!!!

Accordingly, as a church even if we cannot agree on every theological point of view; or even as modern Americans we cannot agree on definitions of the family, media, the arts, law, and electoral politics; we can agree that our mission is to be instrument of reconciliation as God has reconciled the world to God’s-self.

Reconciliation brings us to our mission and to our peace. We work in Russia, in Haiti, and in Africa—why not work right in our own neighborhood in Michelle’s community garden? Use your God-given imagination and seize your own mission in Jesus’ name.

Mar 26, 2010

The Bugaboo We Call Health Care

I was in the midst of a three part series on vision and direction of our church, but have been interrupted in mid-stream by several of our faithful members who have wrongly heard information about what our church’s stance is on the current health care legislation. We UMs do not have an official stance, but rather a bunch of un-official stances from a bunch of random sources.

As several people have asked me, I want to respond with a collage of voices from our United Methodist Church. "Item One" comes in part from our Central Texas Annual Conference, the United Methodist News Service, and a quotation from Gregory Palmer, president of the UM Council of Bishops. "Item Two" comes from the United Methodist Book of Resolutions, and the last item comes from the senior pastor at FUMC, Houston. Thus represented in what follows is a wide swath of our church leaders.

1. Reactions to the health care reform legislative continue to circulate around the nation and our Central Texas Conference. It is important to recognize that The United Methodist Church has been fully involved in this conversation since John Wesley’s time and certainly over the past 8 General Conferences, always affirming the need for comprehensive health care that extends to all. We are a diverse people with many perspectives on most every issue — including health care. The UMC’s position is not for or against any political party or the specific bill passed late Sunday by the U.S. House of Representatives. It is simply in support of health care for all.

From a UMNS story released Tuesday: An attack on U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (a UM clergy elder in the Missouri Conference) — who was spat upon and called a racial slur by protesters outside the Capitol—offers an opportunity to model civil discourse and point to a different path. “It saddens me, the acrimonious debate both in Congress and in the public at large. We have failed to carry on serious debate without personal attacks and name-calling,” said Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, president of the UM Council of Bishops and leader of the denomination’s Illinois Great Rivers Annual (regional) Conference. “My hope is that the church would do such an effective job at managing its own difficult conversations that we might be a model for how the world can manage difficult disagreements,” he said.

2. The health care system in the United States is in need of serious systemic change. We call for legislation that will provide universal access to quality health care with effective cost controls.

John Wesley was always deeply concerned about health care, providing medical services at no cost to the poor in London and emphasizing preventive care. The first Methodist Social Creed (adopted in 1908) urged working conditions to safeguard the health of workers and community.

Through its many hospitals and health-care facilities around the world, as well as public-policy advocacy for health, The United Methodist Church continues to declare its commitment to quality and affordable health care as a right of all people (ADOPTED 1992, AMENDED AND READOPTED 2000; from The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church).

3. To our church family,

Friends, this is an unusual email, but something a bit unusual happened during the recent health care debate. The statement was made that the United Methodist Church had endorsed the health care bill being voted on by Congress. This statement was incorrect.

The United Methodist Church has long been on record as desiring adequate health care for all people on earth. We believe that is the desire of God. How that health care can best be provided, though, must be determined by the people and their government. The United Methodist Church has not endorsed any particular plan.

Now, on this question (as you would expect) United Methodists have many different opinions, and some groups within our denomination have been supporting the bill. We believe all United Methodists have the right to say what they believe. However, only the General Conference can speak for our Church. It last met in 2008 and did not endorse this or any bill.

Please join with me and others in your First Methodist family in praying God’s guidance for our leaders as they make decisions for our country and world.

God bless, /s/ Steve Wende

As you can see all this business about Nancy Pelosi thanking the UM Church for their support of this week’s health care bill was slightly misleading. We support health care for all and have for 240 years. But although we have many diverse stands on a wide variety of ethical issues, we rarely endorse a specific political party, agenda, or ideology. Stay tuned.

Mar 19, 2010

Evangelism after Five Years

After I had gotten my feet under me at FUMC, Arlington back in 2005 and as many of our business people like goals, I developed three broad targets at which I thought our church could aim. These objectives had to do with 1) evangelism, 2) missions, 3) worship. For the next few weeks as we move toward the Easter Festival in 2010, I would like to re-visit these objectives and see how we have done.

Our first objective had to do with evangelism which means simply “sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.” An evangelist named Hudson Taylor once said: “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” So you don’t have to look it up, the great commission is when Jesus said to the disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you . . . ” (Matthew 28:18-20). Many Christians believe that to follow this Great Commission is the best way to be faithful to God’s claim on us.

Earlier in 2005 I suggested that “if we expand our membership a mere 3% of, then we would include 150 new members. If we invite co-workers, family members, or those who do not have a church home from among our acquaintances, this ‘150 new persons’ is a remarkably achievable goal.” So Judy looked up the new member numbers for me:

2005—150
2006—150
2007—132
2008—102
2009—107

Thus for two years we met our aim precisely—and now I throw the challenge down again. Rev. Estee Valendy works to help guests and others looking for a church home feel welcome. But as glowing as Estee and the rest of our church staff is, it even so takes an entire congregation of loving people to make a warm, hospitable, and friendly church that someone might want to call his or her home. We can do it as we proved in 2005 and 2006. Now we need to pray that God’s spirit can breath into us a little enthusiasm for God’s work here in our own congregation as we reach out to a world in need.

Sincerely, your friend [and pastor],

David N. Mosser

Mar 12, 2010

AFTER FIVE YEARS

After five years, I recently looked back and saw something that I wrote (and was not read by many I am sure), but nonetheless gives us some perspective on our journey the last five years. Thus I offer you “Some Things to Ponder for 2005” and let you decide whether or not we have been faithful to our call at FUMC, Arlington, Texas.

Several weeks ago I mentioned from the pulpit some of my personal goals for our congregation. Several members have asked for these items, so I share these in The Chimes for those unable to attend worship that Sabbath.

The first objective I would like to see us achieve is evangelistic. Evangelism means simply “sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.” One way we might quantify our gospel outreach is to embrace new members to our church family. For a 5000 member church, if we expand our membership a mere 3%, then we would include 150 new members. If we invite co-workers, family members, or those who do not have a church home from among our acquaintances, this “150 new persons” is a remarkably achievable goal. I urge us also to diligently make our newest members quickly feel that this is THEIR church, too. Thus, we help assimilate our newest members, as well.

A second goal or objective is to continue to grow in our mission giving and do so on a church-wide basis. We have many dedicated stewards at FUMC who assist our congregational mission outreach in remarkable ways. I would pray that we could continue to swell this group of stewards/disciples. My mental picture is for us to offer many occasions for our entire membership to play a part, and as widely as possible, in mission giving as a full congregation. We do well, but there are many needs in our world today. For here the saying holds true, “Many hands lighten the load.” Let’s keep up the good work!

Last, I would trust that we as a congregation would take with utmost seriousness our attention to worship attendance. It is in worship that we most nearly come together as a large congregation. Clearly, no one can have perfect attendance, but I would hope that those who attend only seldom or intermittently might help our worship experience by attending more devotedly. We will soon have a full-time Minister/Director of Music in place and nothing encourages those who lead more than tempered zeal from those who have selected them as leaders. Likewise, worship is a place where we reenact the story of salvation in meaningful and holy ways. Worship has always been the cornerstone of the faith community. Nehemiah 10:39 reminds us, as it did those in Israel: “We will not neglect the house of our God.”

As we begin our second year together as congregation and pastor, I cannot thank you affectionately enough for having made my family and me welcome among you. I pray we continue on the path which we have begun, and with God’s providential guidance, perhaps we can continue to become a community of love, a place of forgiveness, and a beacon of hope.

Sincerely, your friend,

David N. Mosser



About our goals I will share over the next few weeks how we are doing in my estimation and where we are heading in our “Going the 2nd Mile Campaign.” Pray for me as I do you.

 
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