Pastor’s Message – June 8, 2021

Stories of SUMMER: A Worship Series for June and July

The summer season is an ideal time to immerse ourselves in the stories of Scripture. All of us likely can think of a Bible story that has stuck with us over the years: Jonah and the whale, Noah’s ark, Jesus’ parable of the sower, the healing of blind Bartimaeus … The list is almost endless!

Starting June 20 and continuing through the end of July, we will spend our Sunday morning worship hour immersed in some of these stories. I encourage you to read the Scripture passage ahead of time, which you can find every week on the reverse side of this newsletter. As you read, imagine that you have traveled through a time machine and are present when the story is taking place. Think about what you see, smell, and hear. Ask yourself what you are doing when the action of the story is taking place. For example, on June 20, we’ll be talking about David getting ready to fight Goliath. Are you helping David put on his armor? Helping him gather the stones? Or are you hiding in the shadows and simply watching?

Imagining ourselves in the stories of Scripture is a wonderful way to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice speak to us. The more we read these stories, the deeper the roots of Scriptural truth grow in us. Let’s not only be a people who know the stories but are able to tell them with joy to future generations.

I look forward to a great season of sacred storytelling with you!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – May 25, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy In May

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.

Sing Street (movie): One of my all-time favorite movies, Once, was written and directed by an Irish filmmaker named John Carney. Sing Street is his second film and is a coming-of-age story of a 16-year old named Conor, who is a student at a Catholic school in Dublin. It is set in the 1980s, and Conor’s band’s music reflects that decade as they pursue their dream: to make a music video! It is sweet and uplifting.

House Lessons: Renovating a Life by Erica Bauermeister (book): I’m only 50 pages into this book and love it. It is a memoir whose title says it all: the author renovates a house with her family, and in the process the reflections are also about life renovations. Each chapter revolves around one part of the renovation process. The house and its details are some of the loveliest characters you’ll meet.

Old Church Basement by Maverick City Music and Elevation Worship (music): The title track includes the line, “It’s just an old hallelujah with a new melody.” This is perfect description of this gospel album: familiar lyrics from Scripture with fresh soundtracks. The album took me back to the music of my upbringing with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s movement.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – May 18, 2021

Giving Thanks and Going Forward: Upcoming Staff Openings at FUMC

Dearly Beloved Friends,

As you’ve read in recent weeks here in the newsletter, change is in the air among your FUMC staff. Family Ministries Director Gail Foote is resigning at the end of this month to spend more time with her family and her husband’s business. Youth/Children’s Ministries Director Kyle Chickvara is resigning at the end of June as he prepares to get married, move to Birmingham, and become the director of student ministries at Asbury UMC. While we are sad about their departures from these roles, we rejoice that these changes are for joyful reasons in their lives!

The Staff Parish Committee has already been at work reviewing these job descriptions and making contacts for potential candidates. We need your help as well! If you or someone you know has the gifts or graces for family, youth, or children’s ministries, please let us know. You may contact SPRC Chairman Laura Tinsley or me for more information. Job descriptions are available for those who are interested.

In the meantime, we will be collecting love offerings for both Gail and Kyle in the weeks ahead. If you’d like to contribute to either or both offerings, simply designate that on your check. Also, please take the time to drop them a note in the mail expressing your gratitude for their good, faithful work.

In The Passion Translation of Ephesians 1:22, Paul writes, “Jesus alone is the leader and source of everything needed in the church.” Let us give thanks to Jesus for Kyle’s and Gail’s leadership and that he will provide everything we need!

all good things,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – May 11, 2021

Where The Cross Was

This week’s newsletter piece is a meditation I wrote on Instagram recently.

Walking by the church a few days ago, my pup was drawn to a hole in the ground. While he was very curious about the scents, concern was forefront in my mind. I held the leash more tightly to ensure his paw didn’t slip in. I frowned with questions of where the hole came from, how many there were, and what would happened if someone tripped.

Worry is a sneaky ditch we slip in. We don’t see it coming and don’t know of its presence until it surrounds us. When I realized it was slowly robbing our morning walk of its joy, I took a deep breath, loosened my grip, and laughed.

(Random tip of the day: laughter really is the best medicine, especially for the sin of worry.)

It wasn’t until after the pup walked on to the next scent that the answer to one of my questions emerged from out of nowhere. Where did the hole come from?

It was where the cross had been.

Only a few days earlier, we had taken down the cross that had been standing there for nearly two months. I had already forgotten it had been there. What had stood as a reminder that worry has been defeated was so far from my mind that I replaced the cross with worry. Even when the cross disappears from our natural sight, let us keep it clear before us with our spiritual eyes. Let us not replace it with the cares of this world. Let us bury them where the cross stood—and where it stands.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – May 4, 2021

Treasuring God’s Time

“I don’t have time ….”

“There aren’t enough hours in the day…”

“Where did the time go?”

As we honored our graduating high school seniors this past Sunday, these familiar statements echoed. Many of us wondered when they grew up so quickly. We also listened to our young, hilarious friends at the children’s moments and realized that they will grow up so quickly too!

Time is something beyond our control and feels too quick or too slow, depending on our circumstances. We lament how quickly our children grow up but long for the evening hour when another day has ended. We want to have deeper conversations with one another but don’t know where to squeeze them into our already-tight schedules. Time has become something that we try to possess rather than a gift that God calls us to invest and share.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:”
— Ecclesiastes 3:1

The next time we catch ourselves saying some variation of, “I don’t have time,” please pause. We don’t “have time” because time is not to be had. We are to cherish it. We are to value it. Let us cup the fragile gift of time delicately in our hands. Let us offer it back to God. Let us embrace what he offers for each season and every matter under heaven.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

We give thanks for Gail Foote’s faithful work as the Director of Family Ministries since 2016. As Gail shared last week, she will be resigning at the end of May to spend more time with family and other ventures. The Staff-Parish Committee welcomes candidates for this part time position. Please contact the church office or Chairman Laura Tinsley if you or someone you know is interested in applying.

Pastor’s Message – April 27, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy In April

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! In sharing what brought me joy, I hope you will reflect on what has brought you joy, too.

A Burning In My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene Peterson by Winn Collier (book): If you enjoy reading The Message translation of Scripture, then you are well familiar with the voice of Eugene Peterson. He was an amazing writer and translator of Scripture, but he primarily saw himself as a pastor. He died in 2018, but this biography is full of light in the life of a man so led by the Holy Spirit.

The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers by Valerie June (music): I think we can all agree that the weather here in West Point recently has been heavenly. Every night I love walking outside and looking up at the moon and stars, which have been so visible in clear skies. Singer-songwriter Valerie June’s music is what that perfect night sky sounds like in music. She’s a Memphis native whose work I’ve long admired, but this latest album has made me a fan.

Parks and Recreation (TV show): Yes, this show has been off the air for a while now. Yes, I still laugh out loud at it, even though I know what’s going to happen. We all have our favorite, go-to shows, and Parks and Rec is at the top of my list. I recently bought the whole series on DVD, not only because it was fairly cheap but also because if my internet and cable went out and all I had were DVDs, this is a show I would want. We all need a reason to laugh in our back pocket, and this show is mine!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – April 20, 2021

An Hour Alone

On Saturday the funeral of Prince Phillip was held in England, and a photo quickly began circulating afterwards of Queen Elizabeth, his wife of more than 70 years. Prior to the service’s start, she sat alone in the vast, empty chapel. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, all in attendance were spread out. Expressions of sympathy began pouring in with the image’s stark reminder: even those labeled as ‘royal’ experience the isolation brought by death.

On a global scale, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of our mortality. The safety protocols have heightened the reality that in death we experience unwanted isolation. As the Church, we are called to mourn with those who mourn and to pray with those who are suffering. We also must find ways to companion one another with hope in the midst of suffering.

I witnessed that hope on display in Prince Philip’s service prior to and following the queen’s hour alone on the pew. When she arrived at the church, the archbishop walked her to her seat—a duty and high privilege every minister experiences with a funeral, and one that always moves me deeply. In that moment, he was her pastor, and she was the grieving widow. Her shepherd walked with her. Then, right after the service, the whole family made their way to a gathering—the queen’s car surrounded by her family walking alongside her.

When we give our lives to Jesus, we become part of a heavenly royalty. Yes, we will have hours spent alone. But if we look closely, we see we are still surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and that we are never truly alone. Let’s shepherd one another with that heavenly love.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastoral Reappointment for 2021-2022

Pastoral Reappointment for 2021-2022

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr. and the Cabinet of the Mississippi Conference, during the Appointment Sessions, worked prayerfully together to appoint clergy to every church in our Annual Conference. As Chairperson of the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, I give thanks for the ministry of our pastor, Rev. Darian Duckworth, who has been a servant leader among us. Our pastor is reappointed to serve for another appointment year. We ask for your prayers for her.

Please set aside some time to offer this prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, our Living Savior, we give you thanks for our church. It is a gift of grace to us. We are deeply grateful for the leadership of Rev. Dr. Darian Duckworth who has served us as pastor, teacher, leader and friend in Christ. May your grace be upon her and her family in the spiritual adventure that lies ahead. As she continues as our pastor we pray for her. May your grace abound in her life, giving peace, joy and confidence in this continuing journey. May we remember to lift up the churches and pastors throughout Mississippi that share this time with us. Empower us to fulfill your mission of making disciples as WE serve you. AMEN.

Laura Tinsley
Chair of Staff-Parish Relations Committee

SPRC Members: Melanie Sanders, Bill Maclean, Laura Stewart, Linda Drake, Harry Stevens, Laurann Harrell, Chris Jester, Shane Alpe, Barbara Bryan, Vandy Stubbs, Dr. Darian Duckworth

Pastor’s Message – March 30, 2021

The Gospel According to Palmer

I recently watched the movie, Palmer, on Apple TV, and was very touched by the redemption story at the heart of it. Justin Timberlake plays the title character, and he has recently returned to his small hometown in Louisiana after being released from jail. He moves in with his grandmother, Vivian, who raised him, and begins searching for a job. Everywhere he goes, eyes cut toward him in judgment and question. At home, Vivian’s eyes tell a very different story of love.

In an early scene in the movie, Palmer accompanies Vivian to church, where he unfortunately encounters the same glances of curiosity and condescension. Shame is the furthest thing from his grandmother Vivian’s mind. As soon as they are seated, she happily introduces him to a woman named Dot seated next to her. If it were not for Dot’s scowl and Palmer’s sullenness, this would have been any other grandmother proudly introducing her grandson to an acquaintance. She never mentions prison. She doesn’t make excuses for him. She doesn’t even bring up his need for a job. She simply says, “This is my grandson.”

She claims him as her own when he feels unworthy of being claimed by anything other than his past.

This week we remember that when we were unworthy, Christ claimed us as his own by giving his life for us. Like Palmer, all of us have been in prison— to sin. Like the eyes cutting towards him, we are also guilty of judging rather than loving each other. Vivian sets a Christ-like example for us as we walk towards Easter: she calls him her beloved not because of anything he has done but because of who he is to her.

This Easter, may we all experience the freedom that comes with being loved by our Heavenly Father. Let us release the shame of our past and embrace the hope of a new beginning together!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – March 23, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy In March

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.

Seed of Joy by Marc Scibilia (music): I was introduced to this wonderful singer-songwriter on a podcast hosted by Christian author and speaker, Annie F. Downs. He wrote these songs of hope while watching his dad battle a brain tumor in 2019, and in 2020 during the pandemic he recorded them as the album, Seed of Joy. Though born in heartache, the songs exude hope and are the perfect companion to the spring season’s dawning here in Lent.

On Living by Kerry Egan (book): I’ve had this book in my to-read stack since it was published in 2016. Egan is a hospice chaplain in South Carolina who has compiled some stories of her patients. She weaves her own memoir into the memoirs of those with whom she sits on the threshold of death and life. It is beautifully sad, funny, and like Seed of Joy, full of hope.

Ted Lasso (TV): A struggling soccer team in the United Kingdom hires an American football coach named Ted Lasso to lead their own “football” team. Yes, I scratched my head when reading the premise, too, but I couldn’t stop watching after the first episode. Ted Lasso is one of the most delightful characters TV has seen in recent years with his unwavering, over-the-top optimism. I loved watching how people changed simply from the time they spent around him. The first season is available to watch on Apple TV.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian