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

Pastor’s Message – June 22, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy In June

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.

Good Apple: Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York by Elizabeth Passarella (book): I read this book while on vacation in Chattanooga recently, and I startled my fellow diners in restaurants multiple times by laughing out loud. Then I made my fellow diners look at me with concern because I was crying as I read the touching ending. Elizabeth Pasarella grew up in Memphis, TN, and now calls New York City home, a place that is very different from her upbringing but is truly her home. I first read her work in Real Simple magazine (she also writes for Southern Living). She is a wonderful and entertaining writer!

Baby Take My Hand by Jess Ray (music): This newest release is by one half of the musical duo, Mission House, whose music I’ve also recommended in the space. The album was a wonderful companion on my vacation as well, especially, “Days To Come,” which ask, “Why don’t you come and laugh with me, laugh at the days to come?” Ray’s faith is evident in all of the songs without being overwhelming, and I love her voice.

Mare of Eastown (Limited TV series): This series is for mature audiences only, but its characters and setting are worth paying Eastown, Pennsylvania, a visit. Kate Winslet plays a local detective named Mare who is investigating a recent murder. She’s also dealing with a tragic loss in her own life. The series deals with very real, difficult issues, and yet there is a deep sense of community among the people even amid their conflicts. I found myself caring about these people and wanting to learn more about them.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – June 15, 2021

Obeying the Voice

Because baseball is such an exciting part of the summer season, I am sharing in this space an excerpt from something my dad wrote for my blog in 2018 about one of his (and my!) favorite movies.

In the movie, Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella heard a voice say, “If you build it he will come” and started construction on a major league baseball field in the middle of his corn farm after he was able to “see it” in his soul. Then he sat back and waited for his father’s baseball hero to show up, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. However, Jackson had died almost 40 years earlier. It seemed crazy to believe but in the depths of his heart Ray knew to do one thing: Obey the Voice. So he did. But then he waited and waited as discouragement crouched at home plate.

Ray had to endure doubts, ridicule of peers, rejection, and self-condemnation. It reminds me of an obscure carpenter named Joseph who had a dream, believed an angel’s words that his fiancé was with child by the Holy Spirit, took her as his wife, traveled 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and watched God’s son enter our world among the kingdom’s special farm animals. It was risky. It was difficult. But, it was his obedience to the voice that changed the world.

As a believer in Jesus, I must listen for His voice daily. It comes through the written word, the spoken word, the taught word, and the courage to obey. God is speaking to all of us to take risks. Be kind to those who hate us. Be compassionate to those who judge us. Be forgiving to those who try to ruin our lives. Our dreams can become reality as God molds and shapes us through life’s difficult times knowing He is with us until the end of all.

One of his Dreamers,
Bill Duckworth

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.