Pastor’s Message – May 19, 2020

A Word from Our Staff Parish Chair and Pastor

Bishop James 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. Dr. Darian Duckworth, who has been a servant leader among us. It is my pleasure to announce that our pastor is reappointed to serve for another year. We ask for your prayers for her.
Dr. D, as we know her, as been a true leader during the trying times we have faced so far in 2020. More so than ever, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our entire church staff. Julie, Gail, Rachel, Kyle, Polly, Jace, Ron and Paul have done a tremendous job ensuring that our church continues to be a functional and vital part of all of our lives. Please continue to keep them in your prayers as move to our new “normal”.
Let us pray:
“Lord Jesus Christ, our Living Savior, we give you thanks for out church. It is a gift of grace to us. We are deeply grateful for the leadership of Rev. 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”

Sincerely, Chris Jester, Chairperson Pastor Parish Relations Committee

I give thanks for the leadership of our staff-parish relations committee and the opportunity to serve alongside you for another year! I also wanted to echo what Chairman Chris Jester has said about the wonderful work of our church staff during this crisis. Much of their work has been unseen, and if I were to list everything that they’ve been doing to keep our church actively connected and engaged, this newsletter would not be sufficient space.
To Julie, Gail, Paul, Ron, Rachel, Kyle, Polly, and Jace: from the bottom of my heart, thank you for the faithful, good work that you are doing. I am honored to be a part of our team for another year!
all good things to each of you,

Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – May 12, 2020

Three Things To Know: The Heart of Worship

Last Friday, Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr. shared guidelines for “incremental reopening of congregational in-person gatherings.” I love that title. For the past eight weeks I’ve tried to avoid the phrase, “reopening church,” because church has not closed. When the building does reopen for us to gather in person, church will look very different, but our heart has not changed. Our heart is the worship of our Lord Jesus.

The task force, staff, and I are reviewing these detailed guidelines to ensure that when we can gather again, we will do so safely and carefully. I do want to share with you three things the task force has already discussed.

1. Digital Presence and Virtual Worship: Even when we are able to regather in-person for worship, we want to continue offering the service through Facebook Live, You Tube, and perhaps other platforms. We want to improve on our media and equipment so that we not only keep our digital presence but also enhance it.

2. Worship Gathering as First Priority: When we do regather, at first the only in-person gathering will be the worship service. We hope to resume eventually both worship services with the 11AM service broadcast on radio and Facebook Live. Small groups, Sunday school, and other fellowship groups will remain digital until after the worship service gatherings run smoothly.

3. Guidelines and Precautions: When we do regather, we will have strict guidelines to follow to keep everyone safe. Change can be hard, especially in a space as sacred as our sanctuary, but change will be necessary. Know that these precautions are rooted in a love of God and neighbor, and we will share more with you in detail in the weeks to come.

What can we do as a congregation in the meantime? Pray! Spend time with the Lord and give thanks for his blessings. Ask for his guidance as we continue to navigate the COVID 19 crisis. And don’t forget you can still send your virtual selves to the sanctuary!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – May 5, 2020

The Prayer of Paul Thorn

One of my favorite, unconventional theologians is a singer-songwriter from Tupelo who also grew up the son of Pentecostal ministers. If you’re not yet familiar with Paul Thorn, I encourage you to look up some of his music. I’ve referenced him in sermons and even used one song’s lyrics as a benediction occasionally. He’s funny and honest and effortlessly insightful.

Though his genre is a mix of country, rock, blues, gospel, and Americana, his faith-filled heritage and questionings are an undercurrent in his music. Though I doubt he would call some of his songs, “prayers,” there are hints of conversing with God in his lyrics. One in particular is titled, “I Hope I’m Doing This Right.”

The more I learn, the less I know.
The more I change, the more I grow.
I pray the road I’m traveling on
Will lead me to the light.
God, I hope I’m doing this right.

Have you thought or prayed something similar recently? I know I have! Crisis causes us to learn and to change, and some days we have lots of decisions to make. From government leaders to health care providers to educators and administrators to churches, we likely share one desire: to do what is right. And God the all-righteous One is ready and waiting to help us do exactly that.

When you feel overwhelmed or weary, perhaps stop and pray this simplest of prayers. Voice to the Lord that you want to do what’s right. Make the decision. And trust Him with the outcome. He will not fail us!

Hank Wiliams was in the darkness
When he sang, “I Saw The Light,”
I believe there’s good in everyone.
I hope I’m doing this right.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – April 28, 2020

Simply, Slowly, Sharing

Dearly Beloved Friends,

Over the past few weeks, as I’ve sought the Lord’s guidance about decisions and next steps for our congregation amid the COVID-19 crisis, two words continually echoed in my heart: simple and slow.

Keep it simple. Take your time.

While I know the Lord was speaking this to me as an individual, I believe the message might resonate with many of us. Quarantine has slowed many of us down, and reading about the world’s suffering has likely made us more grateful for life’s simple things. We are eager to resume activities and return to social gatherings with one another, but we must not do so with haste.

We will be in touch in the days and weeks to come about how governor’s orders and CDC guidelines continue to affect our congregation, but in the meantime I want to ask you to find simple, slow ways of sharing God’s love to one another from a safe social distance.

One of the ways you can help your church to share the good news is quite simple. Colby Brister, who is a part of our “dream team” in Sunday worship, told me yesterday of a way that we can reach more people with our Facebook page. On Sunday mornings, when you pull up the live video of our worship service on the church’s Facebook page, click SHARE before 11:10AM, and share it to your personal page. The way that Facebook works, the more “shares” we get of that live video in the first ten minutes, the greater our reach will be. Liking and commenting on the video are good also, but clicking “share” increases our visibility on Facebook.

Don’t you love how simply clicking a “share” button can share the good news? What are the other “share buttons” in your life you might click this week to simply and slowly show Jesus’ love?

I pray it is well with your soul today, and all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – April 21,2020

What We Need To Know: Bird Bat Edition

Dearly Beloved Friends,

If you joined us for worship this past Sunday, then you are already aware of the visitor who slipped into the sanctuary. The “dream team” all believed it to be a bat, but it turned out to be a bird that strangely acted like a bat. Jace captured the bird bat with a garbage bag and released it back to the wild. No animals were harmed, but the humans were a bit weary!

The bird bat’s appearance is yet another example of life’s unexpectedness. We are living through an unexpected pandemic that has left us in unexpected circumstances. Like humans on the ground staring up at a bird bat in the rafters of a church, we have no control over that creature. What do we have is authority through Jesus Christ to respond in love and patience and without fear.

The bird bat’s freedom began with us simply waiting for it to move. We did not climb a ladder or swing from the chandeliers to get to it (thank the Lord!). As creeped out as we —well, okay, I—was by it, and as hard as it was to wait and see what it would do, the waiting was necessary. We are still in a season of waiting for the COVID 19 crisis to pass, and we don’t know how long it will take. What we do know is that Jesus is risen, and his Church is active with that resurrection power.

As we actively wait together, here are the two things you need to know for this week:

We will continue with virtual worship indefinitely, and
The church office will remain closed until at least May 1, at which time we will reassess.

Next week we will update you on plans for the summer months. We will also share with you the winning entry for the bird bat’s name! Many thanks to our children who submitted name suggestions for our newest visitor.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – April 21, 2020

What We Need To Know: Bird Bat Edition

Dearly Beloved Friends,

If you joined us for worship this past Sunday, then you are already aware of the visitor who slipped into the sanctuary. The “dream team” all believed it to be a bat, but it turned out to be a bird that strangely acted like a bat. Jace captured the bird bat with a garbage bag and released it back to the wild. No animals were harmed, but the humans were a bit weary!

The bird bat’s appearance is yet another example of life’s unexpectedness. We are living through an unexpected pandemic that has left us in unexpected circumstances. Like humans on the ground staring up at a bird bat in the rafters of a church, we have no control over that creature. What do we have is authority through Jesus Christ to respond in love and patience and without fear.

The bird bat’s freedom began with us simply waiting for it to move. We did not climb a ladder or swing from the chandeliers to get to it (thank the Lord!). As creeped out as we —well, okay, I—was by it, and as hard as it was to wait and see what it would do, the waiting was necessary. We are still in a season of waiting for the COVID 19 crisis to pass, and we don’t know how long it will take. What we do know is that Jesus is risen, and his Church is active with that resurrection power.

As we actively wait together, here are the two things you need to know for this week:

We will continue with virtual worship indefinitely, and
The church office will remain closed until at least May 1, at which time we will reassess.

Next week we will update you on plans for the summer months. We will also share with you the winning entry for the bird bat’s name! Many thanks to our children who submitted name suggestions for our newest visitor.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – April 7, 2020

Holy Week, Easter, and Beyond: What We Need to Know

Dearly Beloved Friends,

Palm / Passion Sunday was our fourth virtual worship service, and what a glorious connection we had from a distance. Thank you for all of the palm branch waving videos and the variety of elements you gathered to share in Holy Communion. I said something in worship on Sunday that I will repeat frequently about this season of social distancing, virtual worship, and modifications:

This is not ideal, nor will this become the norm, but Jesus IS meeting and changing us.

This week marks the most isolating of Jesus’ life as he made the journey to the cross alone, and indeed he will come to us in our own spaces of isolation. Here is what we need to know as we look toward the Day of Resurrection together from a distance:

1. Holy Thursday, April 9 @ 6PM: We will offer a virtual worship service on Facebook Live and to be uploaded to You Tube later. We will share in Holy Communion if you wish to gather the elements in your home.

2. Good Friday, April 10 @ 12 noon: We will live stream a reading of the Passion narrative from the cross in our courtyard on Facebook and upload later to You Tube. We invite you to find a small cross in your home and set up a space where your family can gather around that cross. Get some paper where you can write down the burdens, prayer concerns, and worries you want to leave at the cross, then place them under the cross during the service.

3. Easter Sunday, April 12 @ 11AM & Sunday, April 19 @ 11AM: We will worship together on Facebook Live and on the radio, 100.9FM. The service will later be uploaded to You Tube.

4. You Tube: In the interest of time and convenience, I am uploading videos of the worship services and Wednesday night music service through my You Tube account. Search for “darian duckworth,” and you’ll see a photo of the church to click on. You can then subscribe to the channel and receive notifications when a new video uploads. We will email and text out a link to that You Tube channel.

Be sure to read the whole newsletter for all that you need to know!
all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – March 31, 2020

What We Need to Know

I am so thankful for the ways we are being the church even though we are not able to gather in the church building. There are so many good, creative ideas blossoming in this desert time, and I give thanks for your ingenuity!

Out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with the federal recommendations, all in-person activities at the church are cancelled until April 30, at which time we will reevaluate. We will continue to offer worship on Facebook Live and on the radio and other safe opportunities for you to connect from a distance. Read this whole newsletter as I can’t fit all those opportunities onto one
page!

IMPORTANT REMINDERS
* Staying Home: As much as we would love to see you, we love you enough to say, “stay home,” during this pandemic. We ask that you not come inside the church building so as to protect yourself and others. The church office will be open for the next two weeks from 9AM until 12PM if you need to call us.

* Facebook Live: Keep in mind that Facebook Live is sometimes overwhelmed on Sunday mornings with so many churches depending on it during the worship hour. This can lead to a shaky video or delayed sound. If you have trouble watching, remember that the video will be available later in the day, and you can watch at any
time!

* Bulletin: If you would like a hard copy of the bulletin mailed to you, please let Julie know by calling 662-494-1658 or emailing us at fumc@fumcwestpoint.com

Finally, and most importantly, remember these words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 16:33: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – March 24, 2020

Prime Time For Prayer

Dearly Beloved Friends,

How is it with your soul today?

This past Sunday was Laureate Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, and is designated as a day to encourage children to keep the faith and rejoice at this late point in the Lenten season. My guess is that ALL of us children of God need some encouragement right now! One of the ways we can encourage each other in our isolation is to pray not only for healing from COVID-19 in the present but also to focus our prayers on the future. This is prime time for prayer, for us to humble ourselves and pray for God’s mercy.

The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.~1 Samuel 16:13 (The Message)

I want to encourage you to make this Scripture a part of your daily prayers. Insert the names of your loved ones where David’s name is. Claim God’s power. Call on the Holy Spirit. Pray about the tasks for which God has chosen the young people in your lives.

As we continue to monitor regulations for the COVID-19 pandemic and response, know that we are working at the church to keep you safely connected to each other. Our task force met this past Sunday, and I encourage you to keep them in your prayers, as well as the church staff. The task force is made up of these church leaders: Jim Helveston, Bill Maclean, Robin McCormick, Melanie Sanders, Marc Stewart, and Jessi Sugg.

This week the church office plans to be open 9AM-12PM. As much as we’d love to see you in person, it is really safer for everyone if you contact us by phone or email rather than come to the church building. We are including staff’s phone numbers in the newsletter if you need to reach us.

Know how much I love you! It is an honor to serve as your pastor.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, March 29, 2020
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11

John 11:1-45

 

Pastor’s Message – March 17, 2020

A Special Edition for An Unusual Time
Because of adjustments we made to our worship services on Sunday, I was able to watch the beginning of CBS Sunday Morning, one of my favorite shows. It was a rerun from last year, an episode recapping highlights on the show’s 40th anniversary. Host Jane Pauley recorded an introduction where she explained the reasoning for the rerun. Changes caused by the spread of COVID-19 kept the staff from producing a new episode. Pauley began the show by welcoming viewers to “a special edition for an unusual time.”
As I prepared for our worship service an hour later, I thought, “What an apt description for the church, too!” A mostly-empty sanctuary on Sunday morning was certainly unusual. What made it special was that through the beauty of technology and the willingness of volunteers, our homes and lives were full of God’s Spirit in worship.
Peter writes to the early church in his first letter these words: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9, New King James Version).” I love how this translation describes the Church as a “special people.” Now is the time when we can truly shine the love of Christ and our trust in God.
We will continue to monitor and assess appropriate responses to COVID-19 prayerfully, thoughtfully, and without fear. Please make sure you are signed up for email, text, and social media notifications to stay informed.
Let us be God’s special edition to one another in an unusual time, giving thanks each step of the way!
 all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian
Lectionary Texts for Sunday, March 22, 2020
1 Samuel 6:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41