Pastor’s Message – December 5, 2023

Stewarding the Season

What a beautiful start we have had to the Advent season with Sunday’s worship service, fellowship meal, and outing for our youth to go ice skating! And we have even more joy in store next Sunday, December 10, with the Blessing of the Tree. Don’t forget to bring an unwrapped toy that you’ll bring forward in the worship service. We’ll look forward to sharing these alongside our blessing box this month.

We are in a season when we are more aware than ever of God’s blessings. Normally by this time of the year we have shared with you three things: the budget for next year, a stewardship campaign, and a list of upcoming officers for next year. Please know that all of these are all still in progress right now, and you will be hearing more about them soon. With many changes in our congregation this year, we’re taking our time on these important, administrative matters and adapting just as we have made adjustments to some of our annual traditions and activities.

One thing that I am committed to improving everyday as your pastor and shepherd is communication. As we enter a new calendar year, know that the staff, church leadership and I will be following up on these three important items with clarity and integrity. In fact, I am really excited to share with you more about all of these in the weeks to come!

What I do ask of you right now is to steward wisely the time God has given us with practices of prayer and thanksgiving. Every day, let us pause to name where we’ve seen God’s glory and where we need his grace. Every week, let us set aside time to worship together as a church family and to fellowship with each other. And let us regularly ask the Lord how we might bless others as he has so richly blessed us.

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s message – November 28, 2023

Worship in Advent: Song, Word, and Spirit

Sunday begins the wonderful season of Advent, where we prepare the homes of our heart and the our church’s home for the coming of Jesus our King. As is our tradition, we will share in the hanging of the greens this Sunday, December 3, which includes a wonderful “lessons and carols” rhythm. We share in some verses of Scripture, then sing, and repeat. This year, we are going to follow the pattern every Sunday of Advent. After all, we have a lot of favorite songs to sing, and we also need to be in the habit of speaking God’s Word as much as possible—as we welcome the Word made flesh.

Here is brief overview of each service, and I hope you will hang on to this description as you prepare your heart each Sunday for worship. Let us welcome the Holy Spirit into our heart as a church, and we will witness Him make all things new!

Dec. 3: We will hang the Greens, share in Holy Communion, and enjoy a meal afterwards. This is the perfect Sunday to invite a friend! Just bring yourself and a big appetite.

Dec. 10: We ask everyone to bring an unwrapped toy for the Blessing of the Tree and bring it forward at the appropriate time in the service. These toys will be a part of our “Blessing Box” ministry, as Jessi has shared with you.

Dec. 17: ‘Blue Christmas’ is more than an Elvis song! It is also a term used for a worship service that allows space for people to grieve during the holiday season. It reminds us that everyone is not always ‘happy’ during the holidays, and we will pray for the hurting while also celebrating with joy the hope of Jesus.

Dec. 24: We have two opportunities for you to worship on Christmas Eve. At 11AM we will celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent in Word and Song. At 5PM we will have our service of Holy Communion, Carols, and Candlelight.

I so look forward to worshipping with you this holy season. Let us look for His arrival together!

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message – November 14, 2023

OutReach and Reaching Out

When we began our online ministry with a livestream of the Sunday worship service, an unexpected challenge that arose was how to measure and follow up with those on the other side of the screen. For our “online attendance” on the reverse side of this newsletter, I had to look up the number of “one minute views” on Facebook and multiply by another number to estimate how many individuals were watching. Facebook refers to these numbers as our “reach,” and I’ve recently discovered a more accurate way to make those calculations of our online attendance.

Looking at all those numbers reminded me of what matters: behind every number is a person. Within every person is a set of gifts and graces. How might we look beyond the numbers to connect with one another?

Here are a few, easy things you can do to help us out:

1. If you are watching online, let us know by leaving a comment or “liking” the video. This lets us know who is present so we can reach out to you. Those of us who are not watching live (like your pastor :)) don’t know who is with us unless you tell us.

2. We have ordered some new visitor cards for the sanctuary. Please encourage those you are meeting for the first time to fill one out!

3. Most importantly: did you know that 82% of people who are invited to church by a friend will come with them? By “church,” I mean worship service, small group, fellowship meal, or outreach event. One of the simplest and most effective ways to reach out is to invite someone personally. And what better time to do so than as Advent begins and Christmas approaches?

Thank you for being a part of what God is doing at FUMC! Let us expand our reach.

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message – November 7, 2023

We are (Still) Standing on Holy Ground

My parents were here for a brief visit this weekend, and how they loved the time of All Saints’ worship and fellowship at the picnic afterwards. I felt the same! Didn’t you feel as if you were standing on holy ground, both in our sanctuary and ‘beside the still waters’ of the Dills’ pond?

My mom brought me one of our church’s newsletter from August 2017 that she came across recently. She’s not sure why she saved it, but I’m glad she did. That particular week I had written about the song, “Holy Ground.” This was so neat because about a couple of months ago the Lord was constantly telling me that our sanctuary was holy ground and to tread carefully.

I wanted to share with you again the verse and chorus to this beautiful song. I invite you to pray it over our church and to give God praise for what he is doing on what he has set us apart to do and to be!

As I walked through the door,
I sensed his presence.
And I knew this was a place
Where love abounds
For this is the temple
Jehovah God abides here.
We are standing in his presence on holy ground.
We are standing on holy ground,
And I know that there are angels all around.
Let us praise Jesus now,
For we are standing in his presence on holy ground.*

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

*Words and music by Geron Davis, 1983.

Pastor’s Message – October 31, 2023

Worship in November: Come and Feast

On Sunday, we are entering our final four Sundays of this Christian year, and how I love these special days. Our readings from the lectionary all seem to revolve around themes of the Thanksgiving holiday: feasting, celebrating, and God’s abundant kingdom. Here’s what we have to look forward to each Sunday, and remember that we will only have one service at 11AM each week:

November 5: Feasting will kick off the month for us with our annual All Saints’ worship service on November 5 at 11AM. We will first come to the Lord’s table and then make our way to the Dill’s pond to gather at tables for our fall picnic. Dress casually for the worship service, stand for the saints you are remembering, and go forth to share a good meal and conversation at the picnic!

November 12: We will pray for and recognize the military veterans among us with some special prayers of the people for Veterans Day in the worship service. If you would like your name included in the list of those who have sacrificially served our country, please contact the church office.

November 19: This is the Sunday before the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll enjoy a special altar arrangement given by Louise Campbell, sing hymns of gratitude, and hear some glory sightings of how God is on the move in our congregation. Come fill your spirit in worship as you prepare to fill your bodies with good food on Thanksgiving Day!

November 26: Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent. I’m looking forward to preaching on an important and moving passage and Scripture in Matthew’s gospel that includes the verse where Jesus said,” As you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” A refrain I’ve shared with you all year is, “God’s got this.” On this special Sunday we will take that one step further to say, “The King is on the throne! Let us celebrate!”

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s Message – November 24, 2023

FUMC Staff: Gratitude and Opportunities

The Staff-Parish Relations Committee gives thanks for the good work of the FUMC staff, especially in the past few months as our congregation walked through a difficult season. They have continued to serve and fulfill their duties faithfully, and we are grateful.

We want to recognize with gratitude the work of our office manager, Melanie Sanders, and organist, Polly Grimes, as they depart from the staff and embark on new opportunities. We pray God’s blessings and peace go with them, and please be sure to express your gratitude to them.

If you or someone you know would be interested in applying for the office manager position, please contact me in the church office or Robin McCormick, SPRC chair, for a job description and more information. Rachel has been working to find an accompanist and will keep you posted.

Please also take a moment to reach out to our wonderful staff and thank them for the good work they have done and are doing. There is no way that I could serve in the shepherding role that is needed now without the organizational skills and initiative-taking of Julie, Stacy, Jessi, Ron, Paul and Rachel. Their names and contact information are on the back of this newsletter, and I encourage you to contact them with a word of encouragement.

Know how grateful I am for each of you. It is an honor to serve as your pastor!

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message 10.16.23

Order, Worship and Service

Dearly Beloved Friends,

 We have a number of important dates to share with you and hope you will make your plans to participate and serve alongside your brothers and sisters at First United Methodist Church in West Point.

 Charge Conference: October 22 at 4PM, Aldersgate UMC, Starkville, MS

 The theme for this year’s district-wide charge conference is “Emerge Stronger: Shining Through Adversity.” We will gather with fellow United Methodists to celebrate God’s work in our churches and to vote on our annual business items (1. pastor’s compensation package and 2. a basic slate of church leaders). I have the honor of preaching and hope you will plan to attend. All currently active church members in good standing may attend with vote.

 Worshipping as One Body Beginning Sunday, October 29

 Starting on October 29, we will have one worship service at 11AM. It is important for us to gather as one body, especially as we near the Advent season and a new season in our life as a congregation. After the first of the new year we will revisit the early worship service. Know that it is not going away but is on “pause” as we focus on our call to unity!

 Serving in the Great Commission

 The nominations committee has begun its work of recommending leaders for 2024. Some will be completed before Charge Conference, and we will be working on others over the next few weeks. Please prayerfully consider saying YES to God’s invitation to serve when a member of the nominations committee contacts you. I can’t wait to see your spiritual gifts activated and in motion as we enter a new year together.

 all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s message 10.9.23

The World as Our Parish

Two weeks ago I attended a leadership conference at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. The last time I attended was in 2014, and I found the workshops and speakers incredibly helpful as our congregation undergoes a time of death and resurrection. I’m still compiling my notes and the ideas shared, but I wanted to go ahead and name some things that especially stood out that apply to us.

  1. “The world is our parish.”: Reverend Michael Beck led two sessions that I attended and encouraged looking for “fresh expressions of ministry. He reminded us of John Wesley’s famous quotation that he looked upon the world as his parish. Rev. Beck pointed out that so often in the church, we make the parish our whole world instead of going into the world to make disciples. Oh how that statement hit me! It is so easy for our worlds to revolve around where we are instead of venturing out into the new thing where God’s calling us.

 

  1. “We are called to create environments where we are honest with ourselves, with God, and with one another through the lens of the gospel”: Speaker & coach Carey Nieuwhof emphasized how desperately people are looking for honesty and authenticity. The earliest Methodist societies thrived because they were rooted in prayer, confession, and the study of Scripture. This is such a powerful but simple model we are called to embrace in the Church.

 

  1. “Turn away from scarcity mentality.”: Reverend Olu Brown did an excellent job of explaining that we often give up in ministry because we feel like “we never have enough.” We must reclaim that we serve Jehovah-Jireh—the God who is more than enough! Reverend Brown reminded me that as children of God, we are a people of hope, not despair, and he will always give us more than enough!

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s message 10.2.23

Follow Up on Church Conference & Worship in October

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 NRSV)

On September 24, we had a church conference to vote on the matter of disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church. There were 268 votes cast. 114 voted to remain UMC (43%), and 154 to disaffiliate (57%). This fell short of the required 67% of votes cast.  As a result, we will remain a United Methodist congregation.

This has been a difficult and stressful season for the life of our congregation, and we now enter into a time of healing and moving forward. While there is grief, we know that we serve a God of resurrection. I don’t think there’s any better place for us to be in the Scriptures this month than in the passages leading up to Jesus’ most famous command to his disciples, which he gave them after his resurrection. To go and make disciples. To do so in the name of the blessed Trinity. To know that God is with us.

We began this month at the Lord’s table for World Communion Sunday, where he gave us life in his death. Let us move forward in his life together as we seek who God wants us to be as a church. Be on the lookout for more information about how we might dream and vision as a church.

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

all good things to each of you,

dr. d

Clarification: There are some emails circulating in the congregation from the address, firstmethodistwp@gmail.com. Please note that this is not the church’s email address. Our addresses have not changed, and any correspondence you have from our church office will end in fumcwestpoint.com

 

 

Pastor’s message 9.18.23

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

Dearly Beloved Friends,

As has been shared with you multiple times from our lay leader, Freddie Brister, we will have a special called church conference this upcoming Sunday, September 24, at 1:30PM with registration beginning at 12:30PM. I wanted to share a few items for clarification as we prayerfully enter the conference.

2.    If you are physically able to do so, please come and worship first. Sundays are first and foremost a sabbath we are called to remember and keep holy. We will be celebrating the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, and I believe you will find the Scriptures most appropriate.

3.   Please spend some time in fellowship with each other between the service and the conference. Light snacks will be provided in the fellowship hall, and it is important for us to simply be together after we worship together.

4.  To clear up any confusion, when the Administrative Council met on August 3, 2023, the majority of the Council voted to ask the district superintendent (DS) to schedule a church conference for FUMC-WP in order to vote on the matter of disaffiliation from the UMC. The Administrative Council did not vote to disaffiliate from the UMC and does not have the authority to do so. The church conference on September 24 will be members’ opportunity to vote on the matter of disaffiliation.

 

Let us offer this prayer together, based on Psalm 105, a reading for next Sunday: We give thanks to you, O Lord. We call upon your name. We sing your praises. We tell of your wonderful works. You, Lord, are our God, whose judgments are in all the earth. You are mindful of your covenant, a word commanded for all generations. We desire to be your covenant people. Praise be to you, O Lord. Praise be to you!

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian