From the Pastor’s Pen
We have turned the page on the calendar and are now confronted with what many are hoping will be a better year than 2020.
Although New Year’s celebrations and resolutions can seem like a lot of hype, I must admit there is contained within the turn of the calendar a promise of hope. There is an expectation for what may be called a do-over, a re-start, a new beginning.
Our United Methodist hymnal contains the song “This is the Day of New Beginnings” written by Brian Wren and Carlton Young, The hymn seems to capture what many of us are feeling as we end this year of the Covid Pandemic and start a new year. It reads:
This is the day of new beginnings, time to remember and move on, time to believe what love is bringing, laying to rest the pain that’s gone.
The calendar’s page turn does not end the pandemic’s continued impact on our lives or alleviate the sorrow for the loss of loved ones, ease financial concerns or heal health issues. Our strength to face the future comes from feeling the deep comfort of our Savior’s calming presence, for we know who holds us close and walks with us through all trials and tribulations.
For by the life and death of Jesus, God’s mighty Spirit, now as then can make for us a world of difference, as faith and hope are born again.
Christ is alive, and goes before us, to show and share what love can do. This is a day of new beginnings; our God is making all things new.
May today indeed be a day of new beginnings for you, days of peace, comfort and quiet joy as we step out in faith into a new year of promise.
In Gentleness and peace,
It’s autumn and the leaves are just spectacular this year so far… and I love it! Generally, the fall is the time of year when we slow down from the frenetic pace of summer activities packed into three short months of warmer weather. This year is very different. The pandemic remains present and activities look very different with virtual races, physical distancing and no singing in church. Like many of you, I long for a return to what is familiar, what I have loved, and what I truly miss. That said, I must remind all of us that we are blessed. I see new appreciation for family and friends, a reaching out to those we love and hold dear, and neighbors helping neighbors. The different pace has promoted dinners together, creativity in how we do things, and humor. As the church, we are moving forward in the work of the Kingdom in new ways which are both exciting and unnerving at the same time. The Holy Spirit does not rest and makes sure we do not rest on our laurels as well. We have work to do!
I would like to discuss two things with you in this message today. The first has to do with Imagine No Racism. In the last Pastor’s Pen, I suggested an article series that spoke on this issue and encouraged you to read and learn. I then promised that we will be exploring the topics of racial barriers in person because I do not feel they can be tackled on-line. In the meantime, we can begin preparation for this delicate subject by educating ourselves prior to our trainings. This month I would like to suggest a book entitled Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD. It is a national Best Seller and a sensitive look at racism in America and is considered to be a classic read on the subject. My hope is that you will read it and prayerfully explore the messages within it.
The second item in this message has to do with the piano in the sanctuary. It is a wonderful instrument and almost 100 years old. Work is needed to keep her at her optimum performance level…(just an aside… why are cars, trucks and pianos referred to as “her”?) This restorative work is to start in January and will be expensive. If you are moved to offer funding towards the work, it will be much appreciated! We are working on some fun, creative ways to help with this expense and Judy Knopp has some great ideas which I will allow her to share with you personally in another article.
Yours in Christ,
From the Pastor’s Pen
During this time of sheltering in place, I am often amazed at the creativity and resiliency of the human spirit. God truly has created us and we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!” I believe this is especially true when it comes to ways to cope with adversity. Each of us deals with stress in different ways, and we look for methods that are healthy and fulfilling. For me personally, music is one good way to get through things and humor is another.
Like many of you, I have turned to technology to help stay connected with the world. In my searches for information on the condition of the country and the progress made on the Covid 19 front, I came across some wonderful videos put together by talented musicians – just ordinary folk having fun in creative ways. Rather than sitting and moping, they have used this down time to tap into their talents as a way to help others deal with the uncertainty of the future. These good folk reached out on social media and shared their musical creations - complete with positive messages and a healthy sense of humor. Parodies of classic songs with comic messages that poke fun at our narcissism, our ego-centric selves have made me laugh, and laughter is a great way to release anxiety and stress.
We are reminded that “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” in Proverbs 17:22. The Bible further instructs us that laughter is of God. The Lord “… will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” Job 8:21. Keeping a sense of humor is imperative during these stressful times as decisions are made on how to re-open our country and our lives. Finding comedic release helps us to cope with life. There is a poster that I enjoy that says “What is important is not that the glass is half full or half empty. What is important to remember is that the glass is refillable.” Right now things seem rather bleak, but we will get through this with God’s help. We will refill our glasses as the curve continues to flatten and we learn a “new normal” way of life.
Please know that we hope to see you face to face in the new future, and that we are here for you. If there is a special need for prayer that you have, please call the church with what your needs are and I will add them to my prayer list. If we can help with food or running for prescriptions or medical needs, please let us know. In the meantime, use your masks, wash your hands, and keep your sense of humor and delight… it is a gift from God.
In gentleness and peace,
I was recently reminded of the Dr Seuss movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas as I was reading about Holy week and empty churches, and the sorrow on faces over the loss of the traditional joining of hearts and hands as we proclaim that Christ is alive. Friends, the Grinch didn’t stop Christmas from coming and the Coronavirus can’t stop Easter from coming either! The real reason we celebrate this coming Sunday remains - the tomb is empty and Christ is alive, He is risen… He is risen indeed!
During this time of sheltering in place, it is important to remember that self-denial is a Christian attribute. We are called to care for our neighbors and show Christian love by staying home. We miss our family and friends, we chafe at the loss of our freedom to go places, and for many of us this is indeed a form of self-denial. Here at Christ First we love our church family, we enjoy our gatherings, potlucks, studies, and our worship together as one body in Christ. Be assured that we will do all of those things again in the future! Our first Sunday together in worship will be a glorious homecoming and we will celebrate the resurrection with joy in our hearts! In the meantime, stay home and stay safe.
As a denomination we have listened to the CDC guidelines and I applaud the efforts of our Cabinet, Bishop and District Superintendents to keep our congregations safe by not gathering in any form and encouraging everyone to stay sheltering in place. To that end, WE WILL NOT HAVE DRIVE THROUGH COMMUNION EASTER SUNDAY.
We have learned that the next several weeks will be critical to the safety and well-being of our community, so please be careful and be safe. We will meet using Zoom and not in person for all leadership teams. Please check your email for your invitation to join. If you do not have a computer and are a member of a team, you can join by phone. We will be happy to walk you through the process and are only a phone call away!
I hope you have been able to access our “new and improved” Website and Facebook pages! The way we do business is changing at a rapid pace, and we are learning as we go, it is a work in progress and it is definitely a work of love. Please know that we have heard your suggestions for improving our sites to better serve you. We will be implementing as many new suggestions as possible.
We have been blessed during this time of self-imposed exile through the talents of our church family. Please give a shout-out to Connie and Tony for all of their IT support and creativity. Virtual church has become a reality through the wonders of technology and hopefully has been an exciting and rewarding way for you to connect with our church family during this difficult time. Our musicians have given of themselves to enhance our services and deserve a big “thank-you” for all they do for us. We are blessed with the commitment to do the work of our Lord and Savior by all of our staff – Kim, Charlie, Kenzie, Andy and Steve and also our trustees and laity who have been diligently working to be the hands, face and feet of Christ. All of you rock!
The Upper New York Conference has been diligent about sending out notices and helpful suggestions to the local churches as we face what may be a new normal. One resource sent is a prayer adapted from the Houston, Texas church - St Luke’s UMC that I would like to share with you now. It is entitled A Prayer for a World Facing the Coronavirus, and it speaks to many of the concerns we have:
It seems like lots of uncertainty around us.
So many people who need prayers.
Today, I pray…
For those whose health is compromised by the coronavirus or other health issues.
For those who suffer from the economic impact of the virus, in travel, manufacturing, hospitality, energy or so many other industries.
For healthcare workers and first responders, and other public servants who put themselves in harm’s way for us.
For our leaders of the world, our countries, states and cities, as they seek to help manage this challenge.
God, it can be overwhelming. But you tell us over and over again not to be afraid.
Show me how to trust in you. As I examine my heart this Lenten season, help me to turn away from my concern with self, and turn my heart, hands, and prayers toward the concerns for others.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray.
Friends, lean into the Lord and he will lift you up. Trust in the power of prayer and be at peace.
In Christian love,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The federal and state governments' recommendations, along with guidelines from the CDC, have been evolving as the spread of the Covid-19 virus and its effects have been felt throughout this country and the world. It has become increasingly necessary to limit contact in close proximity with one another so as to not overwhelm our health care facilities and to keep all of us as healthy as possible during this pandemic.
Christ First is doing its part to comply with expert guidelines and will be closed for worship and other church related activities until such time as we can again safely worship together in truth, love, and faith as one body.
We will need to adapt to a new reality and look at how we "do church" during this pandemic. I have been amazed at the creativity shown by our local church leadership and feel blessed by their faithfulness to God's children and Kingdom work. The following ways to stay connected are being put in place until such time as our doors are once again open and welcoming to all:
We will remain the hands and feet of our Lord and Savior. We have a coordinator who is developing a list of individuals who are available to run errands, pick-up prescriptions, provide groceries and help in whatever ways are needed. If you are in need of assistance, please call the church office. If you are willing to help with errands, also please call the office and let us know.
We can all help through our prayers for one another, for our community and for the world. Please continue to be prayer warriors and go to God with your concerns. We can keep in touch with neighbors, family and friends through phone calls, Facebook and email. This is a time when we, as Christians, can let the light of Christ shine in a world that is in darkness and fear. Always remember to respond with a spirit of faith, not a spirit of fear.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the fear of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6
Friends, remain calm, be at peace, and remember - God's got this!
In gentleness and love.