Pastor’s Message – May 24, 2022

The Prayer List & Prayer Practices for Summer

This upcoming weekend is the “unofficial” start of the summer season, and we will conclude our Easter series on John’s gospel in Sunday worship. The Scriptures assigned for June and July lend themselves beautifully to a topic we can never exhaust: prayer.

I’ll share more on this worship series in a couple of weeks, but in preparation for it, we are making some changes to our church’s prayer list. It is an honor to hold one another’s needs before the Lord, and we want to continually improve on how we share prayer concerns with you. Please note the following changes to our church’s list.

1. When you ask to put someone on the prayer list, he/she will remain on the list for two months. If you wish for the person to remain on the list for longer, you may notify the church office.

2. When you submit a prayer request, please keep the church office updated on how the person is doing.

3. For the sake of space in our Sunday order of worship, we’ll print the prayer list in the newsletter but not in the bulletin.

4. We will provide an updated and more detailed prayer list at the monthly prayer service on the first Wednesday of the month. We hope you will attend.

5. Most importantly, when you have this list in front of you, take a moment to call out at least some of the names before the Lord and offer prayers for them.

Thank you for helping us to improve on the ways we share prayer concerns. It is an honor to intercede for one another, and Jesus waits to hear from us. So, let us pray…

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – May 17, 2022

What’s Bringing Us Joy in May

Every month I like to take a moment and share 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 Enneagram Goes to Church: Wisdom for Leadership, and Congregational Life by Todd Wilson (book): I have only been familiar with the enneagram for a few years now, and I wasn’t too fond of it at first. It’s a tool used to help us better understand personalities—both our own and others. The more I’ve read about it, I’ve learned that it can be very helpful in cultivating compassion for each other. Todd Wilson is a pastor who wrote this book especially for pastors, and I’m currently enjoying it.

Under the Banner of Heaven (TV): I am finally trying Hulu for a month, and my main motivation was to watch this series. Though the story revolves around a murder that occurred in Utah in the 80s, the show is more than true crime. It’s the mystery that keeps me intrigued with the plot, but I’m learning so much about the Mormon religion from it and how fundamentalist religion can be so deceptive.

Come Down O Love Divine by Fernando Ortega (music): If you are looking for some beautiful and peaceful worship music to play at your desk or around the house, I’d recommend any album by Fernando Ortega. His arrangement of “Give Me Jesus,” is so beautiful that it was the only song that Ruth Bell Graham requested for her funeral years ago! This is the album I’ve been listening to most recently in the office, but any of them are sure to bring you God’s peace.

I’d love to hear what’s bring you joy this month and all year long!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, May 22, 2022
Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Re-Appointment

REAPPOINTMENT

As Chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Darian will remain with our congregation for another year. 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. Dr. Darian has been a wonderful servant leader among us for the last several years, and we are blessed to have her continued leadership in the upcoming year. I ask that you continue to pray for her and our congregation.

Bishop Swanson offered this prayer for us to share:
“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 Dr. Darian who has served us as pastor, teacher, leader, and friend in Christ. May your grace be upon her 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
Staff Parish Relations Chair

Pastor’s Message – May 3, 2022

Easter Worship Series: Jesus of John’s Gospel

We are over two weeks into the Easter season, which is a good time to remind ourselves of why Easter is a season and not only one Sunday. We are in a 50-day period in which we remember the 40 days that Jesus walked the earth after his resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and the ten days that followed leading up to Pentecost.

If you fasted from anything during the Lenten season, the Easter season is the perfect opportunity to take up something in celebration. Tsh Oxenreider, whose devotional book, Bitter & Sweet, was my companion during Lent, described these two seasons well: “Lent is for fasting; Easter is for feasting.”

How will you feast on God’s goodness for these fifty days?

In worship we’ll do so by spending time with the apostle who knew both fasting & feasting better than anyone. The apostle, John, was known as “the beloved disciple,” and many people would say that his gospel and letters are among the Bible’s most beloved books. I often recommend that people who are reading the Bible for the first time to start with John. John not only saw Jesus transfigured in all his glory, but he also spent Jesus’ last, horrific 24 hours tending to Jesus’ mother, Mary. He witnessed the best and the worst, and he took the time to tell us what we need to know.

Don’t we all have the same responsibility as the beloved disciple, to tell people how we’ve seen Jesus and what we have seen?

May is a busy month for many of us, and let us not allow the noise to silence our “Alleluia!” Now is the time more than ever to keep declaring, “He is risen!”

all good things to each of you,
Dr Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, May 8, 2022
Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

Pastor’s Message – April 26, 2022

Honoring Bishop & Mrs. Swanson

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., has served as our spiritual leader in the Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church for 10 years, and this year he will enter into a well-deserved retirement. Congregations across Mississippi have been invited to honor his & Mrs. Swanson’s leadership with a gift that keeps on giving, and we have an opportunity to participate.

The Methodist Children’s Homes of Mississippi are a ministry dear to the Swansons. An offering is being collected in their honor that will go directly to renovating a campus home to serve youth in foster care. Currently, because of limited placement options in the state, youth are having to reside in hotel rooms. Some of these youth have been in 35 placements in the foster care system before coming to the Methodist Children’s Home! To renovate this campus home would create a Permanency Assessment Center (PAC) for youth to live with more permanency & stability.

If you would like to make a difference in the life of these children while also celebrating our bishop’s leadership, simply make your check out to the church and designate it, “Swanson’s Love Offering.” We will collect donations throughout the month of May.

The children’s home is an excellent example of what it means to call ourselves Methodist & Wesleyan. We invest in the lives of one another and work to bring justice and peace beyond the walls of the church buildings—by building into the lives of people, especially the most vulnerable.

Thank you for listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and investing in a wonderful ministry.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message- April 19, 2022

What’s Bringing Us Joy in April

Every month I like to take a moment and share 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.

Resurrection Letters: Prologue by Andrew Peterson (music): I am writing this newsletter piece during Holy Week and cannot stop listening to this 6-track EP from Andrew Peterson. It puts to music the last words of Jesus, a new arrangement of Psalm 22, and more appropriate words for the last week of Lent. Check it out wherever you listen to music.

Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl (book): Science and nature writing have never been the genres I would choose first, but this collection of essays is about so much more than birds and plants. Renkl weaves stories of her family, her heritage, and her losses with what she’s observing in her yard. Each chapter is quite short, so it is easy to put it down and return to when you can. The writing is beautiful, and I can’t wait to read her newest book, Graceland At Last.

Michael Clayton (movie): Yes, this movie came out 15 years ago, but it is worth revisiting. It is one of those that I rewatch every few years because I always see something new in it. George Clooney plays Clayton, an attorney who is a ‘fixer’ at a huge law firm in New York City. He faces his biggest challenge when one of their best attorneys has a moral & ethical awakening to wrongs within a case, and Michael, in trying to control the attorney, begins to raise questions of his own. There’s some violence and language but a lot of wisdom in this one, too.

I’d love to hear what’s bring you joy this month and all year long!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – April 12, 2022

The Gospel According to CODA: Hearing Each Other

Last September, in my monthly round-up of what’s bringing me joy, I shared how much I loved the movie, CODA. The title is not only a musical term but also an acronym for Child of a Deaf Adult. It told the 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.

I was delighted when the film won Best Picture at last month’s Academy Awards. Even better, Troy Kotsur, who played the father, won Best Supporting Actor—the first deaf actor to do so. Before presenter Yuh-Jung Youn called his name as the winner, she signed his name with her hands so that he could “hear” his name read. Then, as Kotsur made his way to the stage, the audience stood, raised their hands, and waved them, which was sign language for “applause.” Everyone chuckled as Yuh-Jung Youn handed him the trophy, and then grabbed it back from him because he needed both hands free to sign. His translator beautifully interpreted Kotsur’s acceptance speech and even teared up as he spoke.

This was a powerful moment where people were making a loving effort to hear each other and to ensure that everyone could hear. It reflected the joy of the film, and how we are all trying to communicate well with those we love.

On Sunday we will enter the Easter season, which is all about celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. It is also a 50-day period where we recall how much time he spent with those he loved. They listened to him, and he taught them how to better hear each other, too. Let us enter this season with the intention of truly hearing each other and listening for the voice of God’s Spirit together.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – April 5, 2022

Making Room For Each Other

During the children’s moments last week, the kids arrived to the altar rail before I did. Normally I’m the first to sit down, and they sit around me. We had a large group that day, and they sat so closely together, where I normally sit. I asked them, “Is there room for me?”

Some of them giggled and scooted closer together, but some of them moved further apart and offered me space to sit down. It was an “aha!” moment for us all to realize how important it is to create and offer spaces for one another in the Church. Sometimes this means giving up our “favorite” seat in the pews (Remember that it’s not ‘my pew’ or ‘your pew’: it’s God’s!). Sometimes it means creating a new ministry or opportunity to engage more people in the life of the congregation. What matters most is that we are inviting one another, offering space for them to experience God’s love, and providing opportunities to grow closer to him.

There is no better time to ‘return’ to the Lord than Holy Week. Notice I didn’t say Easter. Just as during Advent we ‘prepare him room’ in our hearts leading up to Christmas. During Lent we heed the prophet, Joel’s, command to return to the Lord with our heart. Let’s start making space for one another leading up to Easter Sunday, and let’s begin filling spaces with our own presence, too. This is a perfect time to return in person for those who are able to do so.

Come feel the gentle brush of a palm branch on your shoulder as a child walks down the aisle saying, “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday.

Come hear the click of lights going out as your eyes adjust to the sudden darkness on Holy Thursday.

Come sit in the uncomfortable silence of a mostly empty sanctuary broken only by the words, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” on Good Friday.

The dawn of Easter morning will be all the brighter, and we will be all the better for showing up and making room for each other!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – March 29, 2022

The Most Important Time of the Year

We have entered the second half of the Lenten season, and the holiest week of the year grows closer. Even though Holy Week does not begin until April 10, now is a good time for us to make preparations for how we will remember our Lord’s final week on earth. Every year it is tempting for us to rush to Easter’s glory, but we must, as we say in the Lord’s prayer, not be ‘led into temptation.’

I was thrilled with how many of you attended the Ash Wednesday worship service at the beginning of Lent, and I hope you will plan to mark the end of Lent in solemn worship, too. Here is our schedule for Holy Week and Easter Sunday with some explanation for each.

Sunday, April 10 at 11AM: Palm Sunday / Children’s Sabbath
*We will not have a service at 8:45 this Sunday.*
This year on Palm Sunday, we will only have one service as our children lead us in worship. Not only will they wave their palm branches; they will sing, play piano, read Scripture, and much more.

Thursday, April 14 at 6PM: Holy Thursday Service
We will share in Holy Communion and conclude this service with the stripping of the altar as we share a reading from Luke’s gospel about Jesus’ arrest in the garden.

Friday, April 15 at 12 noon: Good Friday Service
This will be a simple service of prayers, silence, and the reading of the Passion narrative. If you would be interested in serving as one of seven readers, please let me know.

Sunday, April 17 at 845 and 11AM: The Day of Resurrection
We will offer both services on Easter Sunday and look forward to celebrating this truth together: Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, April 3
Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 126
Philippians 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8

Pastor’s Message- March 22, 2022

What’s Bringing Us Joy in March

Every month I like to take a moment and share 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.

Bitter & Sweet: A Journey Into Easter by Tsh Oxenreider (devotional book): This is the devotional book I’ve been using for Lent, and I love it. Each daily reflection includes a passage of Scripture for meditation, a question for reflection, a short prayer that’s easy to memorize, and a song recommendation. On Sundays there is an art recommendation as well. And as a bonus, the book’s cover is gorgeous!

Seven by Brooke Ligertwood (music) : Ligertwood is best-known for songs she wrote with Hillsong Australia, where she also has led worship for years. This is her first live solo album, and the songs are based on the book of Revelation. Listening to the songs in order with lyrics in front of you does feel like a journey through Revelation that is powerful. This is the book we most need to be studying now, and music like this makes it even richer!

The Courier (movie): Don’t you love stumbling upon a film that is based on a true story in history that you’ve never hear before? I watched The Courier right after Russia invaded Ukraine mostly because it is set during the Cold War. It is the story of two men who took great risks to ensure the safety of others during the Cuban Missile Crisis. One of them lives in the former Soviet Union, the other in Great Britain. I am so thankful for what I learned from this film.

I’d love to hear what’s bring you joy this month and all year long!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Lectionary Texts for Mar. 27, 2022:
Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32