Pastor’s Message – September 28, 2021

Worship in October and November:
Eternity Through the Eyes of Hebrews

During the months of October and November, we are planting our feet firmly in the letter to the Hebrews. Any time we open the Scriptures, the Lord invites us to see the world through his eternal perspective. The beautiful, old chorus, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” reminds us of what happens when we obey this command to look upon Jesus: the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

The Scriptures reveal Jesus to us, and in Jesus we have all the hope we need not only for today but also for eternity. In the midst of present concerns and future fears that can so easily dominate our lives, we need to be more firmly planted in the hope he offers than ever before. The best place to anchor ourselves in that hope is intentional, extended time in the Word of God.

To quote another old hymn, I can’t think of a better letter than Hebrews to offer us “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” The anonymous writer keeps our focus on Jesus while also speaking some difficult truths we need to hear. We will not be able to cover the whole letter over the next two months, but we will discuss a large portion of it. I hope you will read and study the whole letter, and I look forward to how the Lord will grow us together in the weeks ahead.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – September 21, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy In September

Once a month, I enjoy sharing with you about my latest favorites in music, movies, TV shows, books, and podcasts. One of my favorite questions to ask friends when we get together is, “What is bringing you joy lately?” I love hearing the variety of answers to this question! My hope is that in sharing what brought me joy will help you to reflect on what brought you joy.

Coda (movie): Two out of three recommendations involve singing. Are you surprised? Whether or not you love music as much as I do, Coda is a heartwarming film for many other reasons. The title is not only a musical term but also an acronym for Child of a Deaf Adult. This is a story about a high school student named Ruby who is the hearing child of deaf parents and sister to a deaf brother. We quickly discover, however, that Ruby’s great love is singing—even though no one in her family can hear her. It is a beautiful, coming-of-age story about identity and family and much more. Do know that there is a lot of adult language and situations, so it’s definitely for more mature audiences.

Sing! Global Deluxe Edition by Keith & Kristyn Getty (music): You will hear me reference a lot in the near future an online conference I attended last week that was all about congregational singing and especially singing of hymns. Keith and Kristyn Getty are originally from Ireland and are known as modern hymn writers. They celebrate the old hymns while also writing theologically-rich, new hymns for the church. These are songs not meant to be solos but are for all of us. Singing hymns like those on this album deeply forms our faith.

Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner (book): Winner is now a professor at Duke Divinity School, but this was her first book before she became an academic. She grew up in the Jewish faith and came to the Lord in her 20s. In this lovely little book, she talks about how some of the Jewish practices are now forming her faith as a Christian. The title comes from a coffee house where she would often practice sabbath, and her time there deepened her understanding of sabbath. It is an easy and applicable read for spiritual formation.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – September 14, 2021

Eyebrow Therapy

This past Sunday, I shared in the sermon about a former parishioner who taught me about carrying the cross. She was quite a character, and I wrote a blog post in April of 2019 about her, shortly after her death. Here is a modified version of that post. If you’d like to read the whole story, visit my website at www.darianduckworth.com/musings

Out of all the things seminary prepared me to do as a minister, eyebrow painting was not one of them. Yet here I was, removing a lightly tanned stick from a white make-up bag and literally painting eyebrows on one of my church members. After breaking her hip and the slow recovery that followed, Mrs. S. had become bedridden. Of the many everyday tasks she had to give up and grieve was applying her own make-up. When I walked in for our regular visit, the last thing I expected to hear was the command, “Get my make-up bag, and draw me some eyebrows!”

Mrs. S. had a way about her that when she spoke a command, everyone obeyed, whether or not we thought it was a good idea. Me as a makeup artist was definitely not a good idea, but I complied. When I held up a mirror for her to see my meager offering, her smile was worth a thousand thank-you. Then she told me to get the lipstick…

Mrs. S. had experienced a lot of loss in her life. She lost her only son to cancer when he was barely out of college, and the loss of her husband had left her a widow for many years. Putting on her makeup daily was a small task that got her up and out of the house, moving forward in the midst of her sadness. As she grieved that little bit of normalcy, I’m thankful that God entrusted me with the honor of restoring her peace in such a simple routine.

We often don’t know the suffering someone is carrying, or how heavy the cross they bear might be. Yet sometimes we can serve as a balm of Holy Spirit comfort in simply showing up for each other and providing what is needed. How will you serve in the midst of another’s suffering this week?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 31, 2021

September Worship Series: Who Do You Say That I Am?

My dog, Isaac, likes to express in his canine way what his favorite music is. It’s always entertaining in our early morning time with the Lord, when I’m playing worship music, to observe which songs awaken Isaac from his lingering sleepiness. He’ll snore through one song after another, but then one will catch his attention. As soon as that momentarily favorite tune is over, he falls right back asleep.

One of his most recent favorites is “1000 Names” by Phil Wickham, and the chorus says to the Lord, “I know you by a thousand names / and you deserve every single one / You’ve given me a million ways / to be amazed at what you’ve done / I am lost in wonder at all you do / I know you by a thousand names / and I sing them back to you.”

There are so many names ascribed to God in the Scriptures: Prince of Peace, Messiah, Emmanuel, Father, Spirit, Healer, to name a few. When Jesus asks his disciples in Mark 8, “Who do you say that I am?”, there are indeed a thousand choices for the answer!

During the month of September, we will park ourselves in Mark’s gospel on Sunday mornings and explore answers to this question together. I’d encourage you to carry the question into your daily time with the Lord, too. When you read the Scriptures, who do you say he is in a particular passage? If Jesus were sitting with you at the kitchen table during a meal and asked you this question, how would you answer it?

We’ll likely have a 1000 different answers, but may all of those answers lead to the awe, wonder, and rejoicing that his name deserves!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 24, 2021

Praying Through the Overwhelm

Last week, we restarted our in-person, monthly prayer service. In preparation, I thought about all of the suffering and uncertainty in the world: from recovery efforts in Haiti to unrest in Afghanistan, from fires in the west to storms in the east. Where do we begin in our prayers?

This is where two types of prayers come in handy to get us started: those in the Word of God and in words that God has given to writers. From the psalms to Paul’s prayers for the church in his letters, and everything in between, the Bible is full of words we can offer when our own fail. Another resource that I love to draw from are prayers that have already been written by others. I often find myself starting with those, and before long, I am adding my own words to the already written ones. Prayer does not have to be isolated; we are created to draw from wells of wisdom already prepared for us.

One such prayer that has helped me this past week was one we shared in at the prayer service last week. Written by Douglas McKelvey, it is published in his collection, Every Moment Holy Volume II, devoted to loss, death, and hope. The title is, “A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering,” and I love this part:

The Lord’s throne in heaven is yet occupied,
his rule is eternal, and his good purposes
on earth will be accomplished forever.
So we need never be swayed by the brief and
passing panics of this age.
You are the king of the ages, O Christ,
and history is held in your Father’s hands.

I would encourage you to check out a link to the whole liturgy that we posted on Facebook and Instagram last week. My hope is that these words, based on the Word of God, will lead to the utterance of your own words of prayer. And we can rest in confidence that our God in heaven hears, He cares, and even when we can’t see it, He is indeed working.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 17, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy In August

Once a month, I enjoy sharing with you about my latest favorites in music, movies, TV shows, books, and podcasts. One of my favorite questions to ask friends when we get together is, “What is bringing you joy lately?” I love hearing the variety of answers to this question! My hope is that in sharing what brought me joy will help you to reflect on what brought you joy.

Stillwater (movie): I’ve already referenced this movie in a sermon because it is full of insights to our human condition. Matt Damon plays Bill Baker, a father from Oklahoma who travels to France regularly to visit his daughter who is in prison. There is a lot in this movie that goes back to searching for the truth. Did his daughter actually commit this crime? If not, then who did? What is the true story? The director also wrote and directed the movie, Spotlight, one of my all-time favorite movies that is also about justice, truth, and integrity.

Revival Season by Monica West (book): What a perfect read for the summer, even if it is not a typical, light-hearted “summer read.” Set in tent revivals in the hottest months of the year, Revival Season is told by a teenager narrator, Miriam, whose father is not only a pastor but also has the spiritual gift of healing. She adores her father—until she witnesses some events that remind her how humanly broken we all are. West captures well the movement of the Holy Spirit within a faith tradition—and how one young woman longs to hold on to that faith when everything she believed starts to fall apart.

Manifest (TV show): I knew nothing about this show before clicking “play” on the pilot episode. I’m glad that I knew nothing because (a) I’m not a fan of science fiction and (b) I would have avoided it if I knew about the sci-fi element. The show is not for everyone, and I really wasn’t a fan of the third season, but what I did love about the series was the constant reminders from the characters to pay attention to and recognize signs. It is set in the aftermath of a chaotic event, and it’s easy to find parallels to some of our current events.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 10, 2021

Welcome Home, Dr. Foster

The Child Development Center (CDC) Board is delighted to announce the hiring of our new CDC director, Dr. Barbara Ann Foster.

Dr. Foster is a graduate of Mississippi State University with a PhD in Educational Administration. She earned her Masters in K-12 Educational Leadership from Mississippi State University, also, and her Bachelors in K-8 Education from Mississippi University for Women. Dr. Foster has served in the field of education in some capacity her whole career.

She grew up in West Point, attended and worked as a teacher and assistant principal in the West Point School System until she and her husband, Aubrey, were relocated to Louisiana for his job. She was employed by the Louisiana Department of Education as a consultant for Federal Programs for over 17 years. Dr. Foster has a passion for working with students and wants to see they receive the best education possible. She seeks to provide a good foundation for today’s children so they will be ready for school.

Dr. Foster, whose friends call her “Barbara Ann,” likes to read, crochet, and piddle around in her flower beds. She possesses many skills, known to her former coworkers as the “tech guru” always willing to help coworkers figure out how to operate documents, forms, files, spreadsheets, and such. She also created the Risk Assessment Rating Form used by her Division to determine school systems for yearly monitoring. She is the daughter of Liv Brand and the late Charles Brand. She and Aubrey have two daughters Marlana Bowen of Zachary, Louisiana, and Calleen Gable of West Point, Mississippi (both former employees at the Child Development Center) and six grandchildren. Dr. Foster is looking forward to returning home to serve as the Director of the First United Methodist Church Child Development Center.

Stay tuned for more information about meeting & greeting Dr. Foster, and please be in prayer for the CDC in this time of transition. We offer a huge thanks to our CDC Board for their faithful service. Members are:

George Purnell, Chair                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Pam Carson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Anna Thompson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Ralph Weems
Dee Echols                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Anna Dill
Sara Frances Stubbs                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Dr. Darian Duckworth, Pastor
Julie Gray, Financial Secretary

Pastor’s Message – August 3, 2021

“Moving Forward, Remaining Vigilant”

Dearly Beloved Friends,

Most of you are probably aware of a recent spike in the delta variant of covid-19 here in Mississippi. Be reassured that members of our church’s covid-19 task force have been in touch with each other, read updates from the Department of Health and Annual Conference, and, of course, have been praying.

At this time, we are not making any changes to our church’s policies or upcoming activities. However, we do want to share some reminders to help keep all of us healthy and safe.

1. If you are not feeling well, or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for covid, we ask that you would stay home from in-person activities at the church and join us for virtual worship until you are feeling better. And let us know if you want to be on the prayer list!

2. If you are more comfortable wearing a mask while in the church building, please do so. The CDC recently recommended the wearing of masks while indoors again, and we understand if you wish to wear one. Keep in mind that there are a number of reasons someone might choose to wear a mask.

3. If you would like to attend in-person worship but are feeling uneasy about sitting too close to others, remember that there is plenty of room to spread out in the 8:45 service.

Feel free to reach out to me or a member of the task force if you have any questions or concerns. As we move forward in God’s mission for our church, let us remain vigilant in caring for one another.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – July 20, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy In July

Once a month, I enjoy sharing with you about my latest favorites in music, movies, TV shows, books, and podcasts. One of my favorite questions to ask friends when we get together is, “What is bringing you joy lately?” I love hearing the variety of answers to this question! My hope is that in sharing what brought me joy will help you to reflect on what brought you joy.

Pink: All I Know So Far (documentary): If you are familiar with the rock star, Pink (also spelled P!nk), you are likely wondering, “Why is the preacher listening to Pink and watching a movie about her?!” Quite simply it’s because Pink and her music have brought me joy for a long time. Some of the lyrics may be R-rated and the content not for young ears, but she performs with an energy and zeal that makes me smile—and laugh! This documentary follows her preparations to perform to a sold-out stadium of over 140,000 people—all with a husband and two young kids in tow.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reed (book): Like the Pink documentary, this book recommendation has nothing to do with faith or church. It was simply an engaging and entertaining “beach read,” even though I read most of it on my back porch area. Set in the early 1980s, it is the fictitious story of the four adult children of a rock star who throw a huge party in Malibu every year. Again, it’s not for young eyes and has R-rated moments, but it was a relaxing trip, and I loved getting to know these characters.

Hymn of Heaven by Phil Wickham: And here is a recommendation created for the church! Phil Wickham is a fantastic worship leader and recording artist whose newest album feels like a glimpse of heaven. I’ve quoted the title track to multiple people since its release at the end of June, particularly this second verse: “Every prayer we prayed in desperation / every song we sang through doubt and fear / In the end we’ll see that it was worth it / When he returns to wipe away our tears.”

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – June 29, 2021

New FUMC Staff

On behalf of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, I am delighted to share that we have approved the hiring of three new staff members. We are so thankful for the gifts that each of them bring to our church’s leadership. All of these are part-time positions. Please be sure to welcome them and to thank members of the SPRC, especially Chair Laura Tinsley, for their good work.

Stacy Hays, Director of Family Ministries: Stacy is a long-time member of FUMC whom many of you already know, and we look forward to the experience and servant’s heart she brings to this position. She has most recently served as Mission/Outreach Chair on the Administrative Council and also works with the United Way.

Judy Sanders, Director of Children’s Ministries: Judy moved to West Point from Louisville last year, but she is no stranger to FUMC. She is “Bruff’s mom” and brings over 50 years as a schoolteacher and Vacation Bible School director to our church family. We look forward to the enthusiasm and vision that Judy brings to this position.

Camden Shock, Interim Director of Youth Ministries: Camden has served as our youth intern for the past three years and is a student at Mississippi State University, with plans to graduate in December. Camden has faithfully attended and assisted at youth gatherings during that time. We look forward to the ideas and energy that he brings to this position. We also welcome Kaeley Tackett as our new youth intern. Kaeley is a college student, works at Jubilations, and looks forward to working with the young women in our youth group.

Let us be in prayer for our church staff, and thank you for your support of the SPRC’s work. God has a great year in store for us!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Members of Staff Parish Relations Committee
Chris Jester, Laura Tinsley, Linda Drake, Laura Stewart, Harry Stevens, Laurann Harrell, Shane Alpe, Vandy Stubbs, Barbara Bryan, Melanie Sanders, Bill Maclean, Dr. Darian Duckworth