Pastor’s message – November 28, 2023

Worship in Advent: Song, Word, and Spirit

Sunday begins the wonderful season of Advent, where we prepare the homes of our heart and the our church’s home for the coming of Jesus our King. As is our tradition, we will share in the hanging of the greens this Sunday, December 3, which includes a wonderful “lessons and carols” rhythm. We share in some verses of Scripture, then sing, and repeat. This year, we are going to follow the pattern every Sunday of Advent. After all, we have a lot of favorite songs to sing, and we also need to be in the habit of speaking God’s Word as much as possible—as we welcome the Word made flesh.

Here is brief overview of each service, and I hope you will hang on to this description as you prepare your heart each Sunday for worship. Let us welcome the Holy Spirit into our heart as a church, and we will witness Him make all things new!

Dec. 3: We will hang the Greens, share in Holy Communion, and enjoy a meal afterwards. This is the perfect Sunday to invite a friend! Just bring yourself and a big appetite.

Dec. 10: We ask everyone to bring an unwrapped toy for the Blessing of the Tree and bring it forward at the appropriate time in the service. These toys will be a part of our “Blessing Box” ministry, as Jessi has shared with you.

Dec. 17: ‘Blue Christmas’ is more than an Elvis song! It is also a term used for a worship service that allows space for people to grieve during the holiday season. It reminds us that everyone is not always ‘happy’ during the holidays, and we will pray for the hurting while also celebrating with joy the hope of Jesus.

Dec. 24: We have two opportunities for you to worship on Christmas Eve. At 11AM we will celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent in Word and Song. At 5PM we will have our service of Holy Communion, Carols, and Candlelight.

I so look forward to worshipping with you this holy season. Let us look for His arrival together!

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message – November 14, 2023

OutReach and Reaching Out

When we began our online ministry with a livestream of the Sunday worship service, an unexpected challenge that arose was how to measure and follow up with those on the other side of the screen. For our “online attendance” on the reverse side of this newsletter, I had to look up the number of “one minute views” on Facebook and multiply by another number to estimate how many individuals were watching. Facebook refers to these numbers as our “reach,” and I’ve recently discovered a more accurate way to make those calculations of our online attendance.

Looking at all those numbers reminded me of what matters: behind every number is a person. Within every person is a set of gifts and graces. How might we look beyond the numbers to connect with one another?

Here are a few, easy things you can do to help us out:

1. If you are watching online, let us know by leaving a comment or “liking” the video. This lets us know who is present so we can reach out to you. Those of us who are not watching live (like your pastor :)) don’t know who is with us unless you tell us.

2. We have ordered some new visitor cards for the sanctuary. Please encourage those you are meeting for the first time to fill one out!

3. Most importantly: did you know that 82% of people who are invited to church by a friend will come with them? By “church,” I mean worship service, small group, fellowship meal, or outreach event. One of the simplest and most effective ways to reach out is to invite someone personally. And what better time to do so than as Advent begins and Christmas approaches?

Thank you for being a part of what God is doing at FUMC! Let us expand our reach.

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message – November 7, 2023

We are (Still) Standing on Holy Ground

My parents were here for a brief visit this weekend, and how they loved the time of All Saints’ worship and fellowship at the picnic afterwards. I felt the same! Didn’t you feel as if you were standing on holy ground, both in our sanctuary and ‘beside the still waters’ of the Dills’ pond?

My mom brought me one of our church’s newsletter from August 2017 that she came across recently. She’s not sure why she saved it, but I’m glad she did. That particular week I had written about the song, “Holy Ground.” This was so neat because about a couple of months ago the Lord was constantly telling me that our sanctuary was holy ground and to tread carefully.

I wanted to share with you again the verse and chorus to this beautiful song. I invite you to pray it over our church and to give God praise for what he is doing on what he has set us apart to do and to be!

As I walked through the door,
I sensed his presence.
And I knew this was a place
Where love abounds
For this is the temple
Jehovah God abides here.
We are standing in his presence on holy ground.
We are standing on holy ground,
And I know that there are angels all around.
Let us praise Jesus now,
For we are standing in his presence on holy ground.*

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

*Words and music by Geron Davis, 1983.

Pastor’s Message – October 31, 2023

Worship in November: Come and Feast

On Sunday, we are entering our final four Sundays of this Christian year, and how I love these special days. Our readings from the lectionary all seem to revolve around themes of the Thanksgiving holiday: feasting, celebrating, and God’s abundant kingdom. Here’s what we have to look forward to each Sunday, and remember that we will only have one service at 11AM each week:

November 5: Feasting will kick off the month for us with our annual All Saints’ worship service on November 5 at 11AM. We will first come to the Lord’s table and then make our way to the Dill’s pond to gather at tables for our fall picnic. Dress casually for the worship service, stand for the saints you are remembering, and go forth to share a good meal and conversation at the picnic!

November 12: We will pray for and recognize the military veterans among us with some special prayers of the people for Veterans Day in the worship service. If you would like your name included in the list of those who have sacrificially served our country, please contact the church office.

November 19: This is the Sunday before the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll enjoy a special altar arrangement given by Louise Campbell, sing hymns of gratitude, and hear some glory sightings of how God is on the move in our congregation. Come fill your spirit in worship as you prepare to fill your bodies with good food on Thanksgiving Day!

November 26: Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent. I’m looking forward to preaching on an important and moving passage and Scripture in Matthew’s gospel that includes the verse where Jesus said,” As you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” A refrain I’ve shared with you all year is, “God’s got this.” On this special Sunday we will take that one step further to say, “The King is on the throne! Let us celebrate!”

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s Message – November 24, 2023

FUMC Staff: Gratitude and Opportunities

The Staff-Parish Relations Committee gives thanks for the good work of the FUMC staff, especially in the past few months as our congregation walked through a difficult season. They have continued to serve and fulfill their duties faithfully, and we are grateful.

We want to recognize with gratitude the work of our office manager, Melanie Sanders, and organist, Polly Grimes, as they depart from the staff and embark on new opportunities. We pray God’s blessings and peace go with them, and please be sure to express your gratitude to them.

If you or someone you know would be interested in applying for the office manager position, please contact me in the church office or Robin McCormick, SPRC chair, for a job description and more information. Rachel has been working to find an accompanist and will keep you posted.

Please also take a moment to reach out to our wonderful staff and thank them for the good work they have done and are doing. There is no way that I could serve in the shepherding role that is needed now without the organizational skills and initiative-taking of Julie, Stacy, Jessi, Ron, Paul and Rachel. Their names and contact information are on the back of this newsletter, and I encourage you to contact them with a word of encouragement.

Know how grateful I am for each of you. It is an honor to serve as your pastor!

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message – December 20, 2022

What Brought Us Joy in 2022

It’s hard to believe that 2022 is coming to a close. Next week we will not have a newsletter, so I wanted to take
a moment to share some of the things that have brought me joy. I hope as you enter the Christmas season and
prepare for a new year that you’ll take some time to reflect on this year.

Where did you experience joy?
When did you experience grief?
How did God reveal himself to you in those moments?

Lucy By the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (book): I love Strout’s novels, and this one was especially poignant
because it was set at the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. There was such a balance of joy and grief as
friendships formed and deepened in the story, against a backdrop of loss.

Abbott Elementary (TV show): Told in the mock-umentary style of shows like The Office and Parks &
Recreation, this delightful show that airs on ABC follows the happenings of an elementary school in
Pennsylvania. It doesn’t shy away from the troubles of funding and resources but also carries an optimism you
can’t resist in the lead character of Janine. I look forward to it every week.

Blood Oranges in the Snow by Over the Rhine (music): Released in 2014, this is the album I listen to the last
few weeks of every year. It is more than a Christmas album, even though Christmas is a central character. The
last track, “New Year’s Song,” which includes, “Auld Lang Syne,” is perfect for the dawn of a new year.

all good things to each of you,
Dr Darian

FUMC Staff Announcement: The Staff Parish Committee is happy to share the hiring of Melanie Sanders as
office manager. Melanie will begin on January 1, 2023. Julie Gray will transition to the role of financial
secretary on the same date. As a reminder, the church office is open Monday-Thursday, 9AM-4PM, and Friday
8AM-12PM. Please congratulate Melanie and Julie on these new roles!

Holidays – The church office will be closed on Friday, December 23 and Monday, December 26 for Christmas.
The church office will also be closed on Friday, Decembe r30 and Monday, January 2, 2023 for New Years.
We will not have a newsletter the weeks on December 26 or January 2nd.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from your FUMC Staff.

Pastor’s Message – December 13, 2022

A Heart Holding Love’s Weight

This is a shorter version of a weekly musing on my website,

“What heart could hold the weight of your love?”

This is the first line of a song titled, “Holy,” by Matt Redman, and when I hear it, all I can see is that baby named Jesus, even though it’s not technically an Advent or Christmas song. Think about how small a baby’s heart is. Intricate and miraculous like all hearts, yes, but still so small. This tiny heart came into the world to bear the weight of his Father’s love for us. What a heavy load for one so light to carry. Yet His heart was created for this very purpose.

A couple of weeks before Advent began this year, I was climbing into the passenger seat of a car and noticed a distinct red dot on the floorboard. I got closer to discover it was a tiny piece of wood painted red —and shaped into a heart.It is such a little thing; and yet it isn’t little. For in the grander story of Advent, the little wooden heart on the floor calls us back to the little heart of an infant, simply beating and pumping and growing as he becomes a man. His heart will break for the world’s sin and bleed for our healing and eventually stop so that death might be defeated.

But for this season—for this glorious, joyful, and deeply mysterious season, we remember what great things God does with what seems so small by the world’s standards.

Will you pause to sing, “Holy,” over the infant-king?
Will you receive the weight of love his heart brings to you today?

all good things to each of you,
Dr Darian

Pastor’s Message – December 6, 2022

A Full and Beauty-Filled Month

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for the Church — and one of the busiest as well. I wanted to take a moment to highlight what we’ve been doing, what we’re doing now, and what is coming up.

Exploration Meeting Follow Up: Thank you to everyone who came to the Exploration Meeting on Dec. 1. Lots of good and helpful information was shared by Annual Conference Treasurer David Stotts and our District Superintendent, Rev. Paulette Buford-James. After Mr. Stotts’ office sends us a summary of the presentation, we will compile information to share with you this week, especially for those who could not be present.

Adopt A Family: You’ve been reading and hearing about this important outreach for a few weeks now, and we need your help. Please check out the second page of this newsletter for more information, and let Stacy know how you can help. Psalm 72 called us yesterday to work for justice and peace for the poor, and we have an opportunity to obey the Scripture with Adopt a Family.

Third Sunday of Advent: We will have ONE worship service at 11a.m. this upcoming Sunday, December 11. Our choirs will lead us in worship, and we will live into our worship theme of offering lullabies to the infant King Jesus. Please make your plans to attend. All children are invited to participate in the March of Angels as well.

A phrase I am meditating on a lot this season is from the hymn, “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” and it says: Joy of Every Longing Heart. What does your heart long for this season? Let us look to Jesus our Joy to satisfy each and every longing!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – November 29, 2022

Lullabies for a King: An Advent Worship Series

Let every heart prepare him room …

This memorable line from the beloved Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World,” reminds us that the Advent season is a time of preparation for a birth. Think of all that goes into readying a room for the baby who will sleep there. We purchase and assemble furniture. We paint and decorate. We ensure that the baby will be safe in this newly sacred space.

As we prepare the rooms of our hearts for Jesus’ arrival, we are going to look more closely at something that our ancestors did to prepare for his birth: the writing of songs. The psalms are full of a variety of songs that range from praise to lament and everything in between. We know that the psalmists were all singing in anticipation about a Messiah who would come and save the world. Did they realize, however, that the Son of David they watched for would first be a baby, in need of lullabies to sing him to sleep?

As we spend time with the psalms during Advent, I invite you to envision Mary, the young, pregnant mother, humming these same psalms we hold in our Bibles. I invite you to imagine her gently rocking the newborn baby, singing to him the songs of praise her mother sang to her. These are likely the same songs, the same lullabies, he sang under his breath as he went to the cross. What a beautiful opportunity we have to sing over the King of Kings in this holy season, too.

all good things to each of you,
Dr Darian

Pastor’s Message – November 15, 2022

What’s Bringing Us Joy

It’s been a couple of months since I shared what I’ve been reading, watching, or listening to that has brought me joy over the past month. The hope is that in sharing what has lifted my spirit, you will take time to ask God what has lifted your spirit as well.

The Great British Bake Off (TV Show): When my family visited in October, every night my niece, sister, brother in law, and I watched an episode from the newest season of this pastry-filled competition. New episodes release on Fridays, so we were all caught up by the time Friday arrived! One thing that I like about this show, other than how delicious and beautiful the foods look, is that the bakers seem to form great friendships in the midst of “competing” against each other. Yes, it’s a reality show, but it was a lovely and light world for my family to enjoy together. Don’t watch if you’re hungry!

The Great Passion by James Runcie (book): I all-caps LOVED this piece of historical fiction by the same author who created the Granchester series. It is the story of a teenage boy whose choral teacher was J.S. Bach during the season that the famous musician composed his masterpiece about the passion of Jesus. It has some of the best insights on grief I’ve read in recent years. It’s a heavy read but so imaginative.

Too Blessed to Be Stressed by Paul Thorn: Singer-songwriter Paul Thorn from Tupelo released this album over eight years ago, but I’ve been re-enjoying it with its upbeat melodies and humorous lyrics. Be advised of some adult language in a few songs. Thorn grew up in a very religious household, and I am intrigued to hear singer-songwriters wrestle with what they believe in their songs.

What is bring you joy in this season? I’d love to hear from you!

all good things to each of you,
Dr Darian