Pastor’s Message – October 27, 2021

Learning to Worship on Sundays Again

In his book, Calling and Character, William H. Willimon writes the following:

“Sunday is the key that explains to the world and to the church why we are the church. In our Sunday worship Christians serve the world by showing the world that God has not left us alone and that we have good work to do. Sabbath is a weekly reminder that we are created for no better purpose than to praise God and to enjoy God forever. ”

We need Sundays. We need to worship. And in worshipping on Sundays, we encounter our deep need for God and for one another.

For those of us who work on Sundays or are physically unable to come to the building, thanks be to God for technology and resources that can connect us when life and circumstances keep us from being physically present in worship. For those who are able, though, it’s time to learn to worship on Sundays again. Notice that I don’t say, “come to church.” Instead, the invitation is to come and worship. To set aside the time. To prioritize Jesus. To make the journey. To encounter him face to face. To come together.

We must prioritize worshipping regularly together again, remembering the sabbath together and keeping it holy. We’ve heard so much about togetherness over the past year, that “we’re all in this together.” For us, beloved brothers and sisters of the faith, it’s time for us to be together in Him regularly, consistently, and reverently.

In a world of increasing conveniences, God calls us to do what may feel inconvenient.

Even though the past year and a half may have changed the way we approach Sundays, I encourage you to return to the seventh day of creation, to the day of resurrection. To sing his praises. To receive his body and blood. To gather around the one true, loving God. To learn to worship on Sundays again.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – October 19, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy in October

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.

The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values To Root Us in the Way of Jesus by Rich Villodas (book): Villodas is the lead pastor of a multi-racial church in Queens, NY where more than 70 countries are represented in their membership and I have long admired his pastoral writing. This is his first book, and it is a timely read for churches to recenter and root ourselves in values that matter. Even though he writes from the context of the church he serves, these values are applicable to congregations of all sizes and locations. It would be a wonderful book for a small group to study as well.

Call The Midwife: Season 10 (TV Show): It is rare for a television show not only to air for ten seasons but to get better and better with time. Call the Midwife’s latest season is currently airing on PBS on Sunday evenings, and I love it as much as I did years ago. Set in the Poplar neighborhood of London, it tells the story of midwives based in Nonnatus House. Some of the midwives are nuns, and some are not, but they all work together to make their community better. Like Rich Villodas’ book, the show is very rooted in a time and location, and I love visiting it every week.

Worship Forever by Michael W Smith (Music): When Michael W Smith recorded his first live worship album in early 2001, little he know that the album would release on a day we all remember. The album, Worship, released on September 11, 2001, and in the midst of tragedy and chaos called the church to worship. For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Smith gathered friends and a symphony orchestra to record the same songs in the same order from the original album. It is amazing, and I hope you will check it out.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – October 5, 2021

Exciting Times, Upcoming Opportunities at First UMC

Over the past few months, it has been a delight to see some activities picking back up at the church. This newsletter is a little fuller each week with upcoming opportunities to serve and celebrate God’s goodness in our lives. This week I wanted to highlight a few of those opportunities and encourage you to give and to participate as God leads you.

Playground Project: Thank you to everyone who filled an envelope from the “wall of money.” The last day to give with the envelopes will be Oct. 15, so choose your favorite number before then.

Dream Center Outreach: Your generosity for this important new ministry in our community has been amazing. Don’t forget that we’re asking youth and children to donate pillows for the completed beds. Check out the youth and children’s portions of the newsletter for more information. We will share with you soon the grand total raised for the Dream Center. This upcoming Saturday, Oct. 9, keep our volunteers in prayer as they build beds.

New Young Adult Sunday School Class: We had our first organizational meeting this past Sunday and invite anyone who’s interested in this new class to attend in the weeks ahead. We will be setting up a group text on Group Me to keep in touch and send out sample devotionals. We hope to see you in the fellowship hall at 10AM on Sundays.

Fall Festival: This annual celebration will be on Sunday, October 24. Would you be willing to decorate a trunk and provide candy for our kids? Co-chairs Allison Brister and Abbey Dichiara would appreciate your help in making this event as fun as always! Read more details in the family portion of the newsletter.

And that’s only the beginning. Stay tuned for more opportunities. The Holy Spirit is on the move among us, and even better days are ahead for First UMC. Thanks be to God, and thank you for your faithfulness to his Church!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – September 28, 2021

Worship in October and November:
Eternity Through the Eyes of Hebrews

During the months of October and November, we are planting our feet firmly in the letter to the Hebrews. Any time we open the Scriptures, the Lord invites us to see the world through his eternal perspective. The beautiful, old chorus, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” reminds us of what happens when we obey this command to look upon Jesus: the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

The Scriptures reveal Jesus to us, and in Jesus we have all the hope we need not only for today but also for eternity. In the midst of present concerns and future fears that can so easily dominate our lives, we need to be more firmly planted in the hope he offers than ever before. The best place to anchor ourselves in that hope is intentional, extended time in the Word of God.

To quote another old hymn, I can’t think of a better letter than Hebrews to offer us “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” The anonymous writer keeps our focus on Jesus while also speaking some difficult truths we need to hear. We will not be able to cover the whole letter over the next two months, but we will discuss a large portion of it. I hope you will read and study the whole letter, and I look forward to how the Lord will grow us together in the weeks ahead.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – September 21, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy In September

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.

Coda (movie): Two out of three recommendations involve singing. Are you surprised? Whether or not you love music as much as I do, Coda is a heartwarming film for many other reasons. The title is not only a musical term but also an acronym for Child of a Deaf Adult. This is a 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. It is a beautiful, coming-of-age story about identity and family and much more. Do know that there is a lot of adult language and situations, so it’s definitely for more mature audiences.

Sing! Global Deluxe Edition by Keith & Kristyn Getty (music): You will hear me reference a lot in the near future an online conference I attended last week that was all about congregational singing and especially singing of hymns. Keith and Kristyn Getty are originally from Ireland and are known as modern hymn writers. They celebrate the old hymns while also writing theologically-rich, new hymns for the church. These are songs not meant to be solos but are for all of us. Singing hymns like those on this album deeply forms our faith.

Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner (book): Winner is now a professor at Duke Divinity School, but this was her first book before she became an academic. She grew up in the Jewish faith and came to the Lord in her 20s. In this lovely little book, she talks about how some of the Jewish practices are now forming her faith as a Christian. The title comes from a coffee house where she would often practice sabbath, and her time there deepened her understanding of sabbath. It is an easy and applicable read for spiritual formation.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – September 14, 2021

Eyebrow Therapy

This past Sunday, I shared in the sermon about a former parishioner who taught me about carrying the cross. She was quite a character, and I wrote a blog post in April of 2019 about her, shortly after her death. Here is a modified version of that post. If you’d like to read the whole story, visit my website at www.darianduckworth.com/musings

Out of all the things seminary prepared me to do as a minister, eyebrow painting was not one of them. Yet here I was, removing a lightly tanned stick from a white make-up bag and literally painting eyebrows on one of my church members. After breaking her hip and the slow recovery that followed, Mrs. S. had become bedridden. Of the many everyday tasks she had to give up and grieve was applying her own make-up. When I walked in for our regular visit, the last thing I expected to hear was the command, “Get my make-up bag, and draw me some eyebrows!”

Mrs. S. had a way about her that when she spoke a command, everyone obeyed, whether or not we thought it was a good idea. Me as a makeup artist was definitely not a good idea, but I complied. When I held up a mirror for her to see my meager offering, her smile was worth a thousand thank-you. Then she told me to get the lipstick…

Mrs. S. had experienced a lot of loss in her life. She lost her only son to cancer when he was barely out of college, and the loss of her husband had left her a widow for many years. Putting on her makeup daily was a small task that got her up and out of the house, moving forward in the midst of her sadness. As she grieved that little bit of normalcy, I’m thankful that God entrusted me with the honor of restoring her peace in such a simple routine.

We often don’t know the suffering someone is carrying, or how heavy the cross they bear might be. Yet sometimes we can serve as a balm of Holy Spirit comfort in simply showing up for each other and providing what is needed. How will you serve in the midst of another’s suffering this week?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 31, 2021

September Worship Series: Who Do You Say That I Am?

My dog, Isaac, likes to express in his canine way what his favorite music is. It’s always entertaining in our early morning time with the Lord, when I’m playing worship music, to observe which songs awaken Isaac from his lingering sleepiness. He’ll snore through one song after another, but then one will catch his attention. As soon as that momentarily favorite tune is over, he falls right back asleep.

One of his most recent favorites is “1000 Names” by Phil Wickham, and the chorus says to the Lord, “I know you by a thousand names / and you deserve every single one / You’ve given me a million ways / to be amazed at what you’ve done / I am lost in wonder at all you do / I know you by a thousand names / and I sing them back to you.”

There are so many names ascribed to God in the Scriptures: Prince of Peace, Messiah, Emmanuel, Father, Spirit, Healer, to name a few. When Jesus asks his disciples in Mark 8, “Who do you say that I am?”, there are indeed a thousand choices for the answer!

During the month of September, we will park ourselves in Mark’s gospel on Sunday mornings and explore answers to this question together. I’d encourage you to carry the question into your daily time with the Lord, too. When you read the Scriptures, who do you say he is in a particular passage? If Jesus were sitting with you at the kitchen table during a meal and asked you this question, how would you answer it?

We’ll likely have a 1000 different answers, but may all of those answers lead to the awe, wonder, and rejoicing that his name deserves!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 24, 2021

Praying Through the Overwhelm

Last week, we restarted our in-person, monthly prayer service. In preparation, I thought about all of the suffering and uncertainty in the world: from recovery efforts in Haiti to unrest in Afghanistan, from fires in the west to storms in the east. Where do we begin in our prayers?

This is where two types of prayers come in handy to get us started: those in the Word of God and in words that God has given to writers. From the psalms to Paul’s prayers for the church in his letters, and everything in between, the Bible is full of words we can offer when our own fail. Another resource that I love to draw from are prayers that have already been written by others. I often find myself starting with those, and before long, I am adding my own words to the already written ones. Prayer does not have to be isolated; we are created to draw from wells of wisdom already prepared for us.

One such prayer that has helped me this past week was one we shared in at the prayer service last week. Written by Douglas McKelvey, it is published in his collection, Every Moment Holy Volume II, devoted to loss, death, and hope. The title is, “A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering,” and I love this part:

The Lord’s throne in heaven is yet occupied,
his rule is eternal, and his good purposes
on earth will be accomplished forever.
So we need never be swayed by the brief and
passing panics of this age.
You are the king of the ages, O Christ,
and history is held in your Father’s hands.

I would encourage you to check out a link to the whole liturgy that we posted on Facebook and Instagram last week. My hope is that these words, based on the Word of God, will lead to the utterance of your own words of prayer. And we can rest in confidence that our God in heaven hears, He cares, and even when we can’t see it, He is indeed working.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 17, 2021

What Is Bringing Us Joy In August

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.

Stillwater (movie): I’ve already referenced this movie in a sermon because it is full of insights to our human condition. Matt Damon plays Bill Baker, a father from Oklahoma who travels to France regularly to visit his daughter who is in prison. There is a lot in this movie that goes back to searching for the truth. Did his daughter actually commit this crime? If not, then who did? What is the true story? The director also wrote and directed the movie, Spotlight, one of my all-time favorite movies that is also about justice, truth, and integrity.

Revival Season by Monica West (book): What a perfect read for the summer, even if it is not a typical, light-hearted “summer read.” Set in tent revivals in the hottest months of the year, Revival Season is told by a teenager narrator, Miriam, whose father is not only a pastor but also has the spiritual gift of healing. She adores her father—until she witnesses some events that remind her how humanly broken we all are. West captures well the movement of the Holy Spirit within a faith tradition—and how one young woman longs to hold on to that faith when everything she believed starts to fall apart.

Manifest (TV show): I knew nothing about this show before clicking “play” on the pilot episode. I’m glad that I knew nothing because (a) I’m not a fan of science fiction and (b) I would have avoided it if I knew about the sci-fi element. The show is not for everyone, and I really wasn’t a fan of the third season, but what I did love about the series was the constant reminders from the characters to pay attention to and recognize signs. It is set in the aftermath of a chaotic event, and it’s easy to find parallels to some of our current events.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 10, 2021

Welcome Home, Dr. Foster

The Child Development Center (CDC) Board is delighted to announce the hiring of our new CDC director, Dr. Barbara Ann Foster.

Dr. Foster is a graduate of Mississippi State University with a PhD in Educational Administration. She earned her Masters in K-12 Educational Leadership from Mississippi State University, also, and her Bachelors in K-8 Education from Mississippi University for Women. Dr. Foster has served in the field of education in some capacity her whole career.

She grew up in West Point, attended and worked as a teacher and assistant principal in the West Point School System until she and her husband, Aubrey, were relocated to Louisiana for his job. She was employed by the Louisiana Department of Education as a consultant for Federal Programs for over 17 years. Dr. Foster has a passion for working with students and wants to see they receive the best education possible. She seeks to provide a good foundation for today’s children so they will be ready for school.

Dr. Foster, whose friends call her “Barbara Ann,” likes to read, crochet, and piddle around in her flower beds. She possesses many skills, known to her former coworkers as the “tech guru” always willing to help coworkers figure out how to operate documents, forms, files, spreadsheets, and such. She also created the Risk Assessment Rating Form used by her Division to determine school systems for yearly monitoring. She is the daughter of Liv Brand and the late Charles Brand. She and Aubrey have two daughters Marlana Bowen of Zachary, Louisiana, and Calleen Gable of West Point, Mississippi (both former employees at the Child Development Center) and six grandchildren. Dr. Foster is looking forward to returning home to serve as the Director of the First United Methodist Church Child Development Center.

Stay tuned for more information about meeting & greeting Dr. Foster, and please be in prayer for the CDC in this time of transition. We offer a huge thanks to our CDC Board for their faithful service. Members are:

George Purnell, Chair                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Pam Carson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Anna Thompson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Ralph Weems
Dee Echols                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Anna Dill
Sara Frances Stubbs                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Dr. Darian Duckworth, Pastor
Julie Gray, Financial Secretary