Pastor’s Message – September 22, 2020

There’s a Microphone In My Nose

This past Sunday we welcomed an adorable little boy into our church family with the baptismal covenant. Baptisms, like everything, look a little different right now. One of the new preparations I faced on Sunday was how to make my wireless, over-the-ear microphone work with my mask. Thankfully I was able to fit the microphone comfortably under my mask, and everyone in the room could still hear me.

In the middle of the baby’s blessing, something you didn’t see happened: the tiny filter that covered the end of my microphone slipped off the mic—and straight into my nose! I kept on reading the words before me with my lips, but my mind was saying, “How am I going to gracefully get this microphone out of my nose?” Then, as the filter began tickling my nose, my mind said, “It’s going to be really awkward if you sneeze in the middle of this.” So, with all the energy I could muster combined with the resistance to laugh, I tried to ignore the microphone and focus on the baby and words before me. With God’s help, it worked, and I was able to extract the filter between baptism and prayers without any of you noticing (I hope?).

This incident reminds me of something that is integral to following Jesus: recognizing that we have no idea the unseen struggles people are going through. So often we judge each other based on behavior we can see with no idea of the hard times people are quietly experiencing. The microphone in my nose was far more comedy than it was a struggle, but it’s raised my awareness of silent, serious battles people face.

This week, let us be alert to each other’s feelings. Check on one another. Pay attention to the signals that someone may be hurting. Reach out with a phone call or a card. And let us pray that God will help us to see what we need to see, so that we might respond in love. After all, you might help get a microphone out of someone’s nose.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – September 1, 2020

An Update on In-Person Worship Gatherings
Let the inner movement of your heart always be to love one another. ~Romans 12:9 (The Passion Translation)

Dearly Beloved Friends,

On behalf of the church’s COVID-19 task force, I want to thank you for your patience and prayers as we navigate uncharted waters. The task force has met and communicated regularly about our in-person worship gatherings with an ongoing “inner movement of the heart” to love each other. We wanted to provide you with an update and the reasoning behind some of our more recent decisions that will hopefully answer any questions you might have.

1. Event Brite Reservation System: Reservations will no longer be required for Sunday morning worship, but we would appreciate it if you would still make a reservation since it is a helpful tool for us in two key areas. First, should an attendee test positive for COVID-19, Event Brite allows us to easily access who else was present that Sunday and let them know. Secondly, the reservations help us to exercise good stewardship. If we know how many people plan to come, for example, we will know how many bulletins to print, how many ushers to have, and how many Communion sets we’ll need, so that we can be good stewards of those resources.

2. Mask Requirement: Masks will continue to be required for the whole service. Some of our members may be more at risk for COVID-19 than others, and we want for everyone to be safe if they choose to attend in person. For right now, given the Mississippi Department of Health recommendations, we feel the mask requirement needs to continue. However, know that the task force continually reassess this requirement and will make a change when we feel it’s safe to do so.

3. Communication: The task force wants everyone to know that we are listening to you and appreciate how much you love and care for this congregation. As a reminder, if you need to get in touch with any of us, the members of the task force are: Jim Helveston (Security Chair), Robin McCormick (Finance Member /Past SPRC Chair), Bill Maclean (Lay Member of AC), Melanie Sanders (Lay Leader), Marc Stewart (Admin Council Chair), and Jessi Sugg (CDC Chair).

May our Lord continue to richly bless each of us with an “inner movement of love” in a heart that beats for him alone!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 25, 2020

Living Like the Moss

This past Sunday I closed the sermon with an illustration from the radio program, On Being with Krista Tippett. In an interview from February of 2016, Tippett spoke with bryologist Robin Wall Kimmerer, an expert in moss. Some of her observations had me saying out loud, “This is what the church should be!” I am printing below what I shared on Sunday as an invitation to live more like the moss. I also encourage you to check out the whole interview at the link provided below to experience the wonder of God’s creation.

Mosses are not good competitors at all, and yet they are the oldest plants on the planet. They have persisted here for 350 million years. They ought to be doing something right here. And one of those somethings is their ability to cooperate with one another, to share the limited resources that they have, to really give more than they take. Mosses build soil, they purify water, they are like the coral reefs of the forest, they make homes for this myriad of all these very cool little invertebrates who live in there. They are just engines of biodiversity. They do all of these things, and yet, they’re only a centimeter tall.*

Let’s ask ourselves the following questions
1. How might I cooperate with other people?
2. How am I sharing my resources?
3. How will I give more than I take in the kingdom of God?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

* https://onbeing.org/programs/robin-wall-kimmerer-the-intelligence-of-plants/

Pastor’s Message – August 18, 2020

Reading, Watching, and Listening in August

Every month I’m setting aside one week to share in this space about movies, books, and music that have especially spoken to my heart recently. These are not advertisements for you to go out and buy these items. They are not suitable for everyone, but I hope this will invite us to consider what we’re reading, watching, and listening to. God speaks to us in all kinds of ways, and great conversation can arise among us from where we’re hearing God speak.

1. Selma (movie): I am embarrassed to say that I’ve waited so long to watch this movie, but I am so glad I did. Director Ava Duvernay does a superb job of recreating the voting-rights marches from Selma to Montgomery. I was especially moved by David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which really captured his pastor’s heart. Rep. John Lewis, who is a key part of this story, passed away only two weeks after I watched the film.

2. Walk Through Fire by Yola (music): While streaming and shuffling individual songs are the norm, I still prefer listening to whole albums from beginning to end. I love every song on this album, although Dog-stor Isaac is partial to “Ride Out In the Country.” Yola’s voice is rich and deep and beautiful, and she describes her music as “country soul.” It is so good for the soul, too.
3. The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi (book) and The Lazy Genius (podcast): I started listening to Kendra Adachi’s weekly podcast during quarantine, and it may be my favorite find of the year. Her motto is “to be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t.” Her recently released book has principles to help you fulfill that motto.

Through which books, movies, shows, music, and podcasts is God speaking to you these days?

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

Pastor’s Message – August 11, 2020

UNITY: Being of One Peaceful Mind

Next Sunday we will embark on a 5-part worship series around the word, UNITY. While division easily turns us away from each other, unity calls us to turn towards one another even when we disagree. This series builds on the two worship series that preceded it, the first being on PEACE, and the second being on the mind. My hope is that what we explore in the weeks ahead will move us as God’s people towards being of one, peaceful mind.

A beloved hymn that declares the unity of a peaceful mind in the Church is “The Church’s One Foundation.” I especially love this verse:

Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth
her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.

Samuel Stone wrote “The Church’s One Foundation” in 1866 when he was 27 years old and serving as a priest in England. We could easily gaze back across history and think of his words coming from a land far away and a time long ago. The reality is that the Holy Spirit gave him the powerful poem in the midst of great conflict and unrest in the Church, and its message is vital for us now.

The peace of our one Lord, Jesus Christ, and the mind of that same Lord are all we need to move towards unity. Let us press on to the one hope in him as we listen to his Word together.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 4, 2020

Blessing The People Without the Crowd

On Sunday we heard Matthew’s account of Jesus’ healing and feeding many people. It is a “miracle story” familiar to many of us. There is the miracle of healing. There is the miracle of five loaves and two fish feeding over five thousand people. There is also the miracle that somehow twelve disciples managed to organize the people and distribute food with no planning!

None of us planned to be living through a pandemic this year any more than the disciples had planned to manage a pop-up restaurant in a deserted place. Sometimes when our human planning halts, God’s divine planning surprises us with miracles. It’s true that we cannot gather in a crowd of “5000 men, in addition to many women and children” (the Bible has some odd ways of measuring attendance, doesn’t it?). But we can still bless each other with our love and feed each other with encouragement.

What if we each found ways to reach out to five people this week with a word of love and encouragement? Here is an example:

1. Using our Back-to-School Prayer Challenge as a guide, contact one teacher to let him/her know you are praying for them.
2. Send a handwritten note to a fellow church member to say you miss seeing them.
3. When you talk to a family member, whether in person or on the phone, speak a word of encouragement.
4. On social media, go one step further than the “like” button. Leave a comment on someone’s photo or post about how valuable they are.
5. Send a text or call someone simply to say how much you appreciate them.

If each of us could bless five people this week, what a crowd of encouraged, beloved folks we would all know by this time next week!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – July 28, 2020

Following Up & Following Through

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. (Romans 8:26-28, The Message)

Don’t you love reading unfamiliar translations of familiar Scriptures? Different translations can shed new light and offer fresh revelation. These are the same verses on which we reflected this past Sunday, a passage that calls us to seek “the mind of the Spirit” through prayer.

What comfort there is in knowing that the Holy Spirit prays for us when we don’t know how to pray. At the same time, the Spirit wants to offer us language to speak in prayer, too. We must try to pray even when we struggle with the words. We learn that language by immersing ourselves in a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

This week let us endeavor to follow up and follow through on our part in prayer. Set aside at least five minutes per day, preferably more, to spend with the Holy Spirit in prayer. Perhaps you will write your prayers down. Perhaps you’ll simply pray, “Come Holy Spirit,” and spend the rest of the time in silence. Perhaps you’ll sing a hymn and meditate on the words. Whatever form those prayers take, we must get in the habit of hallowing, or setting aside as holy, time everyday to learn from the mind of the Holy Spirit.

Let us move forward in deep hope that all is well, and all shall be well, for God is with us!

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

Pastor’s Message – July 21, 2020

The Church’s New Essential Work

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the leaders on our church’s task force made an observation that well describes a new, essential work of our congregation. Bill Maclean, our lay member of Annual Conference, described our newfound streaming of the worship service as a mission field and an a means of sharing the gospel. He said it so well that it was like hearing a well-spoken sermon! We all said “amen” in agreement, as many of you have since then, that we need to continue and improve our online ministry.

Insert here a round of applause for Art Shirley (I’ll pause to give you time to clap for him). Art volunteered to bring a tripod and run an iPhone for Facebook Live that first Sunday of quarantine, and every week since has faithfully researched and experimented and added to our setup. Colby Brister began working with him on the endeavor, and last week a small group of us met with a digital consultant to learn more about our options. This same consultant will train volunteers at the church when that time arrives.

What do we need most in our online ministry’s next steps? YOU!

Yes, we are hoping to build a good team of volunteers who can run the cameras. And please don’t say you’re not tech-savvy. The best volunteers for the online ministry are curious about learning something new and willing to follow directions. I feel sure many of us meet those criteria!

If you are interested in being a part of this new, essential work of our church, please let us know. If you know someone whose gifts would work well in online ministry, tell us who they are. The only way we can keep this ministry going is with the work of your hands contributing to it.

Let us keep up the good work that God has entrusted to us!

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

Pastor’s Message – July 14, 2020

Reading, Watching, and Listening

Every month I’m hoping to set aside one week to share in this space about movies, books, and music that have especially spoken to my heart recently. These are not advertisements for you to go out and buy these items. They are not suitable for everyone, but I hope this will invite us to consider what we’re reading, watching, and listening to. God speaks to us in all kinds of ways, and great conversation can arise among us from where we’re hearing God speak.

1. Live At Home by Cageless Birds (music): The Cageless Birds are a community of artists, musicians, and teachers in western North Carolina who offer a number of resources to grow in relationship with Jesus. I love a live album of acoustic worship music that takes me into God’s presence.

2. So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (book): I’m trying to be more intentional about listening to the voices of people of color, and Oluo’s book was recommended to me by a lot of folks I respect. She is a brilliant writer who challenges me to rethink some of my own mindsets simply by listening to her experiences. (The book does contain strong language.)

3. Knives Out (movie): It’s funny, it feels like an Agatha Christie mystery novel, and I love a movie with a cool house for its main set. I doubt I’ll be using it for sermon illustrations, but it was certainly entertaining and a nice escape from reality for two hours. (The movie does contain some violence.)

Through which books, movies, shows, music, and podcasts is God speaking to you these days?

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

Pastor’s Message – June 30, 2020

The Work We Don’t See

At last week’s staff meeting, we talked about a topic that I had been avoiding: the two lights above the choir loft, high in the ceiling, that had burned out. I did not like the idea of someone having to climb a high scaffolding to change those bulbs, but my fears were somewhat eased when I found out we could change them through the attic and not on a ladder. Still, that was a long way up for someone to climb up and then crawl across to get to the bulbs.

Paul Fowler, who came on the staff as building superintendent in January, was the “someone” who changed those bulbs last week. When we arrived for worship on Sunday morning, the light was greater and brighter. We did not see Paul’s work of crawling across the attic and changing the lights, but we saw the fruit of his work.

Over the past few months, your church staff has faithfully worked in ways you couldn’t see to continue bringing the comfort and connectedness of the church to you. They’ve rehearsed music for Wednesdays and Sundays, taken crash courses in ZOOM, mailed curriculum, answered numerous phone calls, adapted to using new, potent cleaning solutions, among other tasks. They have lived out Jesus’ command of humility, “to not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4).

What quiet work that others may not see is God calling you to do this week?

I encourage you to take a moment to thank Paul, Ron, Julie, Gail, Kyle, Rachel, Polly, and Jace for the literal and spiritual light bulbs they’ve been changing and the attic spaces they’ve been navigating for the good of our church. And let us keep our eyes open to others we might thank for their unseen work. Behind every new light bulb is a faithful witness to the light of Christ.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

* We will resume in-person worship for 50 people this Sunday, July 5. Details on the reservation process are in this newsletter and on the congregational address video, which is on You Tube and Facebook.*