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

Pastor’s Message – March 16, 2021

A Year Later

One year ago this week, a former parishioner sent me a meme from the movie, Forrest Gump, of Tom Hanks’ character seated at a bus stop. A bubble over his head had him saying, “And just like that… my pastor was a televangelist!” I cringed and laughed and thought (hoped?) this newfound art of preaching to a camera would be temporary.

A year later, I look at the camera very differently. It is a part of our regular worship service, and I am thankful for what God is doing with our growing digital ministry. I’m equally thankful, though, that I’m not preaching solely to a camera now. It is wonderful that those who wish to do so can gather safely in person, and thank you for your patience and cooperation.

As we continue through the Lenten season and look expectantly to the Easter season, we have some wonderful worship opportunities both in person and virtual. Be sure to add these observances to your calendar!

Sunday, March 28 (Palm/Passion Sunday)
Children’s Procession of Palms at 11AM service

Thursday, April 1 (Holy Thursday)

Service at 6PM (Virtual & In Person)
Holy Communion, Stripping of the Altar, and Imposition of Ashes

Friday, April 2 (Good Friday)

Virtual Service at 12 noon

Sunday, April 4 (Easter Sunday)
* Reservations are required for both Easter services* See page 2 for more detailed information.

Sunday, April 11 (Confirmation Sunday)
Holy Communion at both services and Confirmation at 11AM

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – March 9, 2021

Taking the Next Steps

Our 2021 confirmation sessions have begun. As always, we have a wonderful group of 6th graders, and we give thanks for their parents who are living into their commitment to our Heavenly Father to raise them in the fear of the Lord and in relationship with Jesus Christ, his Son. Walking alongside these students are mentors, adult members of our congregation chosen by the confirmands who admire and respect them.

One of the most important commitments the mentors make to the students is to pray for and with them. Our hope is that the relationship they have here in confirmation will live on well beyond these few weeks, that they will continue to reach out to each other and be present to each other. As fellow members of our church, would you commit to pray for these families and mentors?

Students                              Parents                                                    Mentor
George Bryan                  Wilkes and Amy Bryan                        VJ Trolio
Audrey Drake                  Rod and Carrie Drake                          Sherrill Weems
Hatcher Cunningham    John and Heather Cunningham        Ralph Weems
Elizabeth Stewart           Marc and Laura Stewart                      Laura Tinsley
Faith Taunton                  Michelle Zimmerman                     Mary Carr Ecklund

We’ve also invited the confirmands to commit this Scripture to memory. Isn’t this a perfect summary of who we are and what we believe?
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” ~ Matthew 28:16-20

all good things to each you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – March 2, 2021

What Brought Us Joy In February

Towards the end of every 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.

All Creatures Great and Small (TV show): This recent PBS Masterpiece series was a remake of a show from the 1970s, based on a series of books of the same name. It tells the story of young veterinarian, James Herriot, who works in the Yorkshire dales. Not only is the scenery beautiful, the animals are charming, and I want to share a meal with the characters. My favorite line came in the season finale, when a young vet tending to an ailing donkey from the nativity program says, “I’m dressed as an elf, and my date is a donkey.”

In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu (book): I first became familiar with Mitch Landrieu when a speech he gave about monument removal hit national news. I remember thinking, “How did he come to that decision?” This book marvelously tells his story of how years of conversations, relationships, and observations contributed not only to this decision but others he made. It is an excellent study in leadership.

A Drink With a Friend (podcast): Originally hosted by author Tsh Oxenreider with the title, “The Good List,” this podcast is now a conversation between her and another author named Seth Haines. Not only do they offer fabulous drink recommendations appropriate for all ages (I now love Bubly sparkling water because of them). They also talk theology, current events, and much more in a thoughtful manner. My favorite episode is the one about Lent.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – February 23, 2021

Church People

Have you ever seen an object unexpectedly in a new way?

This happened to me recently while drinking a cup of coffee at my breakfast table, one of my favorite spots in the house. Hanging above the coffee maker is a painting by Vicksburg-based artist, Tony Davenport. Titled, “Church People,” the painting has been a part of my home for nearly nine years. It is full of color and joy as well as a holy reverence with churchgoers depicted all face the same direction, heads raised and gaze fixed.

Every day, multiple times a day, I look at the painting. But on this particular morning, the “church people” within it reminded me to look toward Jesus. For years these worshippers had silently been calling me to stop and “lift my eyes to the hills.”

What does it mean for us to be a “church people?” Perhaps our primary calling to God and with one another is to help keep each others’ eyes where they need to be: looking above and beyond the immediate and toward the bright, joyful colors of God’s kingdom.

As we continue to walk through this Lenten season, where do you see God’s kingdom in your everyday life? And how are you leading one another as “church people” toward Jesus?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – February 16, 2021

Lenten Prayers and Practices

By the time most of you read this, the Lenten season will have begun with our Ash Wednesday service. As I previously shared, our Sunday worship series during this meaningful and reflective season is all about grief—and how the Scripture can guide us through grief into a deeper place of peace in Jesus.

I want to invite you into a few practices this season as a community of faith, centered in worship and expressed in our love for God and neighbor.

1. Memorize The Invocation: For the next five Sundays, our invocation in the worship service will be the same prayer, known as, “The Collect for Purity.” I encourage you to commit it to memory. If you have youth or children in your household, say this prayer together in your homes and discuss what you think each part means. I find myself returning often to this prayer when I’m struggling with words, and it is so powerful.

2. Donate Your Dimes: On the second page of this newsletter are the projects for our local Lenten mission this year, and the one that I’m most excited about is a new one. Get a 16 ounce, empty water bottle, and fill it with dimes. What if every family in our church filled one bottle? What an easy way to make a big impact on ministries in our community that need our support!

3. Make a Phone Call: As we learn more about grief in this season’s worship series, we’re also very aware that so many of us are grieving different losses. When the Holy Spirit places someone on your heart who might be struggling through grief, why not pick up the phone and call her/him? Or send a note in the mail? In the same vein, if you are walking through grief and need an ear, pick up the phone and call someone. Schedule a time to talk. This is all part of building up the body of Christ, and he is with us in those conversations.

I look forward to walking through this beautiful season with you.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian