Coming UpOur pastor writes a weekly email to the congregation, sharing news and information about worship on Sunday, including links to read and study the Scripture in advance, as well as devotional thoughts and reflections to help prepare us for worship. You can read those below, and also sign up to receive the emails in your inbox on Fridays.
- July 14, 2017 Dear FUMC Family,I hope you’ve had a good week. As you look to the weekend, I hope you’ll plan now to join us here at church. This week we’re beginning a new series: Moses: God’s Unlikely Hero. Over the next six weeks we’ll explore the life and story of Moses as he leads God’s people to freedom. Many of our Sunday School classes will be studying Moses in the coming weeks, too. Now is a GREAT time to check out a Sunday School class to grow and deepen your faith.This Sunday, we’ll begin with the story of Moses’ birth and You can read more in Exodus 1:8-2:10. As you read, you might notice that God is never mentioned. Yet, God is clearly at work through the faithfulness of some incredible women whose courage helps make his life possible.As you think about your own life, where have you sensed God at work? Often times, though we do not know it at the time, we look back and realize God was with us, moving and working all the time. Knowing God has been with us in the past gives us faith and courage to face the future unafraid. One of the great hymns of our faith says it beautifully: “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come; be thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.” If you have a minute, listen to this great rendition of the hymn from the Cambridge Singers.Don’t forget, there’s still time to register for Vacation Bible School, which begins NEXT Sunday, July 23. And, if you’re at all interested in joining our pilgrimage to the Holy Land next spring, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I expect to have our finalized itinerary and price information very soon to begin registering travelers. A visit to the Holy Land is the trip of a lifetime, and I’d love for you to join us!Also, let me share another important opportunity for our church as we continue as Hope Companions for the Abishyizehamwe “Together” Working Group in Giti, Rwanda through Zoe. On Sunday, July 30 our Zoe Team will be showing a moving film, Sometimes in April, which documents the struggles Rwanda has faced in the years since the terrible genocide of 1994 to help us better understand what many in our group have experienced. In addition to the film (for those 18 and older), there will be a special opportunity for our children and youth to learn about Zoe. We’ll begin with dinner at 5:00. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about Zoe, our community in Rwanda, and how our church is living out our mission to be more like Jesus for Belmont and beyond. Plan now to join us!I look forward to seeing you on Sunday. Have a great weekend!Peace,
- May 12, 2017
Dear FUMC Family,
I hope you’ve had a great week. This Mother’s Day Weekend, I hope you’ll make plans to join us here at FUMC for worship. At both our 8:30 and 11:00 services we’ll be hearing a powerful passage from Acts 7:55-60. The passage tells of the stunning faithfulness of Saint Stephen, the first martyr in church history. We’ll use Stephen’s story to think about the faithfulness of others, including our mothers, and how they help us to see and know the Risen Christ in our lives. I hope you can join us!
Also this Sunday, we have special news to share from our ZOE Team about our Hope Companion community in Rwanda, so you won’t want to miss being here if you can. Renee, our worship team and our choirs have some great music planned. It should be a terrific morning together!
One final note, if you aren’t signed up already be sure to click here to begin receiving news updates and announcements from FUMC via text message. It’s another great way to stay informed about all that’s happening here.
Thank you for the joy of serving as your pastor. I hope you have a terrific weekend. I’ll see you on Sunday!
- May 5, 2017
Dear FUMC Family,
I hope you’re having a good week. I’m looking forward to Sunday and want to invite you to join us here for worship at 8:30 or 11:00 a.m. We’ll share in Holy Communion at both services. At 11:00, we’ll recognize our 2017 Disciple Bible Study Graduates and welcome new members into our church family.
Sunday’s scripture is Luke’s incredible description of the early church from Acts 2:42-47. I’d encourage you to take just a minute to read it if you can. As scholars have pointed out, it is amazing that Luke’s description follows right on the heels of his account of Pentecost, a “mountaintop” moment for their faith when God sends the Holy Spirit upon the apostles like tongues of fire. They have this incredible experience of God’s presence and power and then, Luke says, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Too often, we expect our relationship with God to be all mountaintop moments. But Luke says the early Christians went from the mountaintop to the everyday life of being church. As we receive new members this week, we’ll get to hear again the promises all of us make as members to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. That’s basically what the early Christians were doing, too! It was their faithfulness in the ordinary, everyday work of worshipping, praying, studying scripture, caring for one another, and sharing their faith that they continued to grow with God’s dynamic power.
What does it look like for us, in the ordinariness of our days, to grow in our faith? How can we meet the Risen Christ and experience his dynamic power in our lives? Perhaps we would do well to heed the wisdom in Luke’s description, and like the early Christians, commit ourselves to one another and the life of our church family in a renewed way.
On Sunday, we’ll think more about these questions, celebrating the good news that we meet and encounter the Risen Christ as we are part of community together. I hope you can join us!
Don’t forget our Children’s Service Opportunity this Sunday from 3-5 p.m. in the Old Fellowship Hall. They’ll be making Mother’s Day cards and baskets for the moms at Catherine’s House. Email Stefanie Pruden at email@example.com if your children can join us! As always, friends are always welcome!
Thank you for the joy of serving as your pastor. See you on Sunday!
- April 13, 2017
Dear FUMC Family,
I’m writing a day earlier this week to invite you to join us for worship tonight at 7 p.m. as we observe Maundy Thursday together. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment. We come to the Lord’s Table remembering the great commandment Jesus gave on this night, that we should love one another.
Tomorrow is Good Friday and we have two opportunities to mark and remember this most sacred day in the life of our faith. We’ll join with our brothers and sisters in Belmont at Holy Comforter Lutheran Church for a Community Cross Walk at noon. We’ll journey through downtown together, pausing to remember Jesus’ journey to the cross.
Tomorrow night we have a very special Service of Tenebrae at 7 p.m. We’ll hear the Passion Story interspersed with beautiful, stunning music from our choir. Gradually, the lights will dim to total darkness in remembrance of the darkness Christ experienced on the cross for our salvation.
Sunday morning, join us at 7 a.m. for our Community Sunrise Service in Greenwood Cemetery. Then, plan to join us for our Easter Sunday Services of Worship at 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. Both services will include tremendous music and the Celebration of Holy Communion. At 9:30, join us in Carpenter Hall for a delicious and festive Easter Breakfast. And, we DO have Sunday School this week. Adult classes will meet for a combined lesson in Carpenter Hall.
This is surely the holiest week of our year together. For our church staff, it is also one of the busiest. I hope you’ll join me in expressing thanks to them for all their hard work to make our worship, prayer and journey with Christ so meaningful throughout this week, and all year long. We are blessed beyond measure by the gifts they offer to us!
Holy Week always takes me back in my mind and memories to churches where I’ve worshipped and people I’ve been blessed to serve in ministry through the years. I’m grateful for those memories. Even more, I feel so fortunate to serve as your pastor now. I hope and pray God’s blessings will be with you this week, leading you to a new experience of the gift Christ has given, and the life and hope he makes possible. To quote Leslie Weatherhead, may the love manifested in these days “stream into our hearts, challenging and subduing them and winning from us that response which is thy will for us.”
- April 7, 2017
Dear FUMC Family,
As the weekend nears, I hope you’ll make plans now to join us here at church for worship on Sunday. This Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week as we celebrate Palm/Passion Sunday together. At both services I’ll share some brief reflections based on Matthew 21:1-11 and we’ll welcome a special guest, Rev. Gary Shockley, who will be sharing the story of the Passion through sand art. You won’t want to miss it! Our 8:30 service will include palms and Holy Communion. Our 11:00 service will begin on the sanctuary lawn with a palm processional and also include special music from our Chancel Choir and children’s choir.
Don’t forget! This Sunday is the final Sunday to bring donations for our canned food drive, sponsored by our youth. They’ll be delivering and sorting our donations at the B.C.O. on Sunday night. So be sure to bring canned goods and non-perishables and place them at the foot of the Lenten cross on Sunday.
Be sure to take note also of our full Holy Week Calendar. If you haven’t already, sign up today to participate in our Holy Tuesday Prayer Vigil in the sanctuary. And plan to join us on Thursday and Friday evening at 7 p.m. for truly moving and powerful worship as we mark these sacred days together.
This time of year always makes me grateful for the privilege of serving such a great church as ours. Thank you for your faithfulness and for all you do to help fulfill our mission to be more like Jesus for our community and beyond. May God bless you today and always.
- March 31, 2017
Dear FUMC Family,
I hope you’re having a good week. As the weekend approaches, I want to invite and encourage you to join us here for worship. We’re finishing our series on Sabbath this week, looking at Deuteronomy 5:12-15. If you have a minute, check these verses out before Sunday! And plan now to join us at 8:30 or 11:00 as we worship together.
In Deuteronomy, God not only commands the people of Israel to keep Sabbath, he tells them why: “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.” In other words, keep Sabbath because you have been set free.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes beautifully about the freedom we have received in Christ. He begins chapter 5 by saying, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” And then later, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”
Years ago I saw a church sign around the Fourth of July that asked, “What are you using your freedom for?” What’s our freedom really for? Paul suggests it is for the sake of others. At its heart, that’s what Sabbath is about, too. In Deuteronomy, God’s command to keep Sabbath extends to everybody — it’s a call and invitation for God’s people to offer the gift of rest, delight and joy to everyone around them.
I’d invite you to take note of those around you today: classmates and coworkers, family members, those who serve you in some way. And pray for them: for their lives, for the burdens they might be carrying, for their joys and their sorrows. And ask God to show them the delight and joy of God’s grace in you.
Join us this weekend for worship. It’s going to be a great weekend together – lots of great music, and Holy Communion at both services. I hope to see you then!
- March 24, 2017
Dear FUMC Family,
Happy Friday! As the weekend approaches, I hope you will plan to join us here on Sunday for worship. We’re continuing our look at keeping Sabbath, thinking this week about how Sabbath is time set aside for being with God, and how time spent with God helps mold and shape us as people who are becoming more and more like Jesus together.
Our Scripture this week comes from John 15:1-8, where Jesus compares our relationship with him to the vines and branches of a glorious vineyard. What Jesus seems to be hoping for in the passage is that our lives, like vines and branches themselves, will bear fruit, in other words that his goodness, mercy and love will come to life in us. That’s the great gift of a relationship with Jesus.
I’ll never forget reading a biographical sketch for a visiting preacher when I was in college. It described one of her hobbies as “nurturing friendships.” So often we think good friendships and relationships just happen. But such a description reminds us that friendships and relationships take work and time – we must nurture them if they are to grow.
One of the great gifts of Sabbath is the time to nurture our friendship and relationship with God. God has given us time–a whole day every seven days–to spend with Him. That’s what we’re about every Sunday morning: worshipping, spending time in prayer and study, listening for God’s Word for us. So, I hope you can join us this week. We have worship at 8:30 and 11:00. At 8:30 we’ll share in Holy Communion and at 11:00, we’ll celebrate the baptism of Claire Wilhelm. It’s going to be a great morning! I hope to see you then!
In the meantime, please know how grateful I am to serve as your pastor. And know that I’m always here if I can be of any help or service to you in any way. May God bless you and those you love today.
- March 10, 2017
Dear FUMC Family,
I hope this email finds you well. As the weekend approaches, I want to invite you to join us here at church for worship on Sunday. We’re continuing our conversation about the gift of Sabbath, thinking this week about God’s invitation and call to rest. We’ll be hearing the story of creation from Genesis 1, as well as the powerful call Jesus issues in Matthew 11:28-30 to each of us. At 8:30 our worship team will lead us and we’ll share in Holy Communion together. At 11 o’clock, our children and youth choirs and youth handbell choir will share special music. It’s going to be a great morning!
Jesus’ words make a fitting invitation to join us on Sunday. Here’s the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases them in The Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Whenever we worship, our hope is to walk with Jesus that together we might be more like him. I hope you’ll plan now to join us.
Don’t forget, Daylight Saving Time begins early on Sunday morning, so be sure to turn your clock ahead one hour on Saturday night!
Also, don’t forget our Sabbath Experiment Potluck, happening Saturday night in Carpenter Hall at 6:00 p.m. I really hope you can join us. Bring food to share and enjoy a night of keeping Sabbath, sharing the joy of food and fellowship together. We’ll also be forming small Sabbath Experiment Groups that want to meet and share Sabbath meals through Lent. If you are interested in joining a group, email Kristen@fumcbelmont.org.
Thank you for the joy of serving as your pastor. May God’s blessings surround you today and always. I’ll see you on Sunday!
- March 6, 2017
Dear FUMC Family,
I hope you are having a good week. I wanted to write and send a quick reminder about two very special events happening in the life of our church this week and invite and encourage you to join us if you can.
First, we will have as our special guest Rabbi Murray Ezring on Wednesday, March 8 at 7:00 p.m. in Carpenter Hall. Rabbi Ezring will share with us about the theology, practice and tradition of keeping Sabbath in the tradition of Orthodox Judaism. I’ve known Rabbi Ezring for several years and heard him speak on many occasions. You won’t want to miss hearing him! Also don’t forget our Meet in the Middle Fellowship meal from 5:30 to 6:30, and also a brief service of Holy Communion at 6:30 in the sanctuary.
Second, this Saturday we’re hosting a Sabbath Experiment Potluck at 6:00 p.m. in Carpenter Hall. If you’re looking for a way to keep Sabbath this Lent, or just hoping to find delight in friends and fellowship, plan to join us! Just bring a dish or two to share! We’ll offer some simple ways to honor the Sabbath as we eat together.
Saturday night, we will be organizing “Sabbath Experiment Groups” that will meet together over the course of the season for casual meals and fellowship – all aimed at helping us slow down and spend time with others. If you’re interested in joining one of the groups but can’t make it Saturday, email Kristen Surratt at Kristen@fumcbelmont.org.
I hope you have a safe, blessed week. And I hope to see you on Wednesday, or Saturday – as we share in this Lenten journey of keeping Sabbath together.
- March 3, 2017
Dear FUMC Family,
I hope your week is going well! I wanted to write and invite and encourage you to join us here at church this weekend. This Sunday is the First Sunday in Lent, and we’re kicking off a new series on Sabbath – asking how we might, in this season and throughout our lives, find ways to stop, rest, enjoy life, contemplate God and know true freedom.
This week we’re going to think about how Sabbath calls us to STOP. We’ll hear two passages of Scripture together, one from Exodus 31:12-17 and one from Matthew 4:1-11. I’d really encourage you to take a minute and read these before Sunday. To me, the Exodus passage is particularly challenging, in part because of the way God frames the decisions we make about Sabbath. God’s words are strong and challenging – and they’ve really forced me to think more seriously about what my Sabbath could look like this Lent, and beyond — and how all our lives might be different if we did this together. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you on Sunday.
As Lent begins, many of our Sunday School classes are beginning new studies, which makes this a perfect time to get involved or reconnect with Sunday School. Check out all the offerings here. Kristen Surratt will be leading a Sunday School class especially for newcomers and others looking for a class. They’ll be looking at Matthew Sleeth’s great book 24/6. Everyone is welcome — meet in Room 306 (leaving the narthex, it’s the second door on your left).
You’ll especially want to be with us on Sunday to receive one of our Sabbath Kits, full of helpful tools and ideas to help you and your family keep Sabbath this Lenten season. We’ve had a great team of volunteers working all week to get these ready – so a huge thanks to everyone who has made them possible.
Finally, I hope you’ll mark next Wednesday and Saturday, March 8 and 11 on your calendars. We have Rabbi Murray Ezring from Temple Israel joining us on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. to share about Sabbath from the perspective of Orthodox Judaism. Rabbi Ezring is a powerful, humorous, engaging speaker – you won’t want to miss it! And be sure to join us for Meet in the Middle from 5:30 to 6:30!
On Saturday night, we’re hosting a Sabbath Experiment Potluck at 6:00 in Carpenter Hall. As we explore Sabbath together, one of the things we’ll be learning is that Sabbath is about finding delight and joy in the people around you in your life and community. In the Jewish tradition, we’re imagining Sabbath to begin on Saturday at sundown… so we’ll gather that night for informal food, fellowship and fun together. From there, we’re hoping for smaller groups to covenant together to meet for a similar dinner 3 other times through Lent. Come join us and see what the Sabbath Experiment is all about!
I’m really excited about the days ahead here at First UMC. In the Exodus passage we’ll hear on Sunday, God says we are to keep Sabbath as a sign that God is sanctifying us-making us more holy, or-as we might say here at FUMC-making us more like Jesus together. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this Lenten journey with you, and for the joy of serving as your pastor.