Pastor’s message 4.17.23

Easter Worship Series: Celebrations

We have entered into a 50-day celebration of the resurrection that begins with the empty tomb and concludes with our Lord Jesus returning to his Father at the ascension. As I began planning for this Easter worship series, I noticed something significant: every single Sunday already had a celebration built into it!

Over the years, you’ve heard me refer frequently to “glory sightings,” a term Bishop Swanson lifted up in his tenure as our leader, to remind us to be on the lookout for signs of God’s presence that we must celebrate. Bishop Swanson retired in December, and he served as pastor and mentor to our new bishop, Sharma Lewis. She has continued to hold up the need to give thanks, praise God, and celebrate his glory in our lives.

During the Easter season, we will have a glory sighting each Sunday. From Children’s Sabbath to scouting to Methodist Senior Services, and more, there will be no shortage of joy in how God is moving. I could list for you what is in store for each Sunday…. but how much more glorious would it be simply to show up & see & be surprised by where resurrection is at work?

May the glory of the risen Christ accompany and strengthen you this week. Let us give him our thanks and praise, for he has conquered the grave!

all good things to each of you,

dr darian

An Update From the Administrative Council: At our March 5 question & answer session regarding unrest in the denomination, we gathered your questions and have been working on answering them. Compiling unbiased information has been much more difficult than anticipated, and know that we are working to get accurate answers to you in the next week and before Administrative Council meets on April 30.

 

Pastor’s message 4.3.23

Entering Holy Week

During the Lenten season, the choir’s introit was the first verse of a hidden-away hymn on page 285 of The United Methodist Hymnal. Many of us are likely not familiar with, “To Mock Thy Reign, O Dearest Lord,” and I would encourage you to become familiar with all of its verses. The first verse is:

To mock your reign, O dearest Lord, they made a crown of thorns; set you with taunts along that road from which no one returns. They could not know, as we do now, how glorious is that crown; that thorns would flower upon your brow, your sorrows heal our own.

Holy Week concludes with the flowering of Easter, but let us not rush to the celebration without pausing with the thorny taunts that accompanied Jesus’ suffering. This is the week we return to what we first heard on Ash Wednesday: from dust we came, to dust we shall return, and we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

We have two opportunities for you to pause with the Passion of our Lord this week. Our Holy Thursday service will be at 6PM on April 6, and the Good Friday Reading of the Passion will be at noon on April 7. These are somber but powerful times of worship that bring us face to face with how desperately Jesus loves us. They also prepare our hearts for the coming resurrection. I hope you will embrace these opportunities to worship our dearest Lord in the community of faith.

all good things to each of you,

dr d

 

Pastor’s message 3.27.23

What’s Bringing Us Joy in March

Every month I like to set aside a week in the newsletter to share what I’ve been watching, reading, or listening to. My hope is that in sharing with you what brought me joy, that you will pay attention to what brings you joy as well.

Branches by Luke and Rosemary Skaggs (music): This 26-minute EP that released two weeks ago is playing on repeat at my desk with its slow, acoustic sounds. They are all original songs by this remarkably talented husband and wife, and they are a perfect accompaniment to the dawn of the spring season. My personal favorite is the last track: “A Place Where The Highway Stops.”

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge: With spring cleaning as a priority these past few weeks, I’ve again appreciated audiobooks to keep me company. This historical fiction novel based on the story of one of the nation’s first African-American, female physicians was both educational and captivating. I loved the characters, and to me the mark of a good book is when you don’t want to say goodbye to them when the last chapter ends. Such was the case with this young woman named Libertie.

Women Talking (movie): I’m very far behind on watching Oscar nominees and winners for this year, but I was grateful I made time for this important film. Based on a true story and set in an isolated Mennonite community, the film’s title says a lot. It is a story about women who live in a place where they are disempowered, but their voices in community give them power. I was especially moved when they would start singing hymns they had committed to memory because they were illiterate. It is a serious film but has light moments to balance the heavy storyline. I am really glad I watched it.

I’d love to hear what’s bringing you joy this month!

all good things to each of you,

dr d

Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of tornados that tore across our state this weekend. This recovery will be long-term, and our church has a wonderful opportunity to make a long-term commitment to helping restore & rebuild. Stacy Hays is gathering information about how to help. Numerous aid groups are asking that we not self-deploy right now. Be on the lookout for more information on how to donate monetarily and in other ways.

Pastor’s message 3.20.23

All The Good Things at FUMC

I thought this fourth week in the Lenten season was a most appropriate time to take a look at a few of the good things God is doing in the life of our congregation. How important it is for us to pause and give thanks for his goodness!

Youth Intern: The Staff Parish Committee is thrilled to share that we have hired Lance Dalton as an intern with our youth group. Lance will be working with youth volunteer Ray Purnell to lead weekly lessons and help with activities as needed. Lance is a junior at Mississippi State and was a guest speaker with the youth group a few weeks ago. We look forward to having him on board. On a personal note, Lance was in the church I served in Cleveland, where I confirmed and baptized him seven years ago!  He will begin working with our youth this Wednesday night.  Please be sure to introduce yourself and welcome him to our church family.

New Members: In February we welcomed five new adult members to our church family, as well as a delightful first-grader whom we expect to join by baptism and confirmation at the right time!  The Lairds and Messiers have been a part of our church family for a while, and we’re delighted that they made it official. With Easter approaching, it is an ideal time to reach out to a friend and invite them to come and see what God is doing here.

High-Tech Sunday School: We are working on some new and easy ways to keep up with Sunday school attendance. There is now a QR code in the Sunday school classrooms that members can scan and fill in with all the pertinent information. With the recent communication survey as well, we are working on new and better ways to communicate what is going on.

Prayer: For the past few months it has blessed my soul to see so many people attend the monthly prayer service. Of course, Jesus is present when there are only two or three as easily as when there are 23 of us, but I am delighted to see so many of us making corporate prayer a priority. Be on the lookout for more opportunities to pray together as a church family.

I could go on and on, but just turn to page two of this newsletter to see more!

What are the good things you’re celebrating in our church?

all good things to each of you,

dr darian

Pastor’s message 3/13/23

An Update from the Administrative Council

Dearly Beloved Friends,

In early January, the Administrative Council met and unanimously approved not to enter into a disaffiliation process. This group of leaders discussed a deep need for the congregation to have as much information as possible before entering into such an important decision making process.

Since then, a small, diverse group was gathered to brainstorm ideas for our next steps. As Elizabeth Bailey shared with you a few weeks’ ago, the group saw the two main areas that needed attention were to work on casting our vision as a church and to provide accurate, thorough, and unbiased information on what is happening in our denomination. The next step we decided on was to offer a space and time to gather people’s questions, which we held on March 5.

This past Thursday, the Administrative Council met to look over those questions and to decide on what our next step would be. After much discussion, the committee approved continuing to gather information to share with you. We will begin with answering those questions that were submitted. We have not entered into the disaffiliation process now. It is important to be mindful of our time but not to be rushed, and we are working to live in that balance. Be on the lookout for more correspondence from the Administrative Council in the next week.

Three years ago this week, the covid-19 pandemic began to affect the world in ways we never imagined. Still, God was on his throne through it all, and He still sits enthroned over any and every situation His Church finds Herself in. Let us keep our vision fixed on Him as we seek His will as a congregation and continue to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with the King of Kings.

 

                                                                                                                                              all good things to each of you,

                                                                                                                                              dr. darian

 

Pastor’s message 3/7/23

The Missing “E”

Eight years ago, I was walking through the sanctuary of the church I pastored, and nestled beneath a pew were six white beads with black letters, strung together in a semicircle: B-E-L-I-E-V

I thought of the disciple, Thomas, who was one E short of being able to believe that Jesus had risen. I thought of the modern-day Thomases—both those who fill the pews and those who avoid the pews. This spark on the floor spoke as loudly as the stained  glass window on the wall.

Sometimes we believe wholeheartedly. Other times we feel like we’re one E short. We believe up to a point, but then questions enter. Our minds race. Our thoughts crowd out our faith. No greater blockade is there to joy than confusion. Yet how do we find joy when our circumstances raise endless questions, pressing decisions, and various outcomes—creating a windstorm of confusion?

As I walked to my office and opened my computer , I discovered a new single from Mumford & Sons was releasing at that time. And the title was “Believe.” I listened to it and remember well the prayer offered in it: “I don’t even know what I believe. So open up my eyes. Tell me alive.”

Some of us long for definitiveness. We grow anxious when we don’t have all the answers we want. Mystery makes us nervous. The missing “E” distracts us. We crawl under pews to search for something that is not on the floor.

Mumford & Sons reminded me to pay attention both to the bracelet on the floor and to the window up above. The Father is in both places. Christ extends his scarred hands toward us from above & below. The Spirit speaks to us from the recording studio and in the sanctuary. To believe is to risk moving forward without the third “E”—trusting and hoping that in Him we are indeed complete.

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s message 2/27/23

What’s Brought Us Joy in February

Every month I like to set aside a week in the newsletter to share what I’ve been watching, reading, or listening to. My hope is that in sharing with you what brought me joy, that you will pay attention to what brings you joy as well.

There’s a Light by Liz Vice (music): Liz Vice’s voice first captured my attention in her work with the worship collective, The Porter’s Gate. Her first solo album, There’s a Light, released years ago but I’m only now finding and enjoying it. Vice received a kidney transplant nearly 20 years ago, and one year after the transplant, she felt God “nudging” her to join the worship team at her church even though she was scared to do so. Since then, her music has soared in a way that only God could work.

The Reset: Returning to the Heart of Worship and a Life of Undivided Devotion by Jeremy Riddle: Last month I shared with you how I had worship leader Jeremy Riddle’s latest album playing on repeat in my ear buds. Then I discovered he had written a book about worship, and it is one I want to read and re-read. What’s especially interesting is that everything he is calling the Church to do is exactly what students at Asbury University did
in the time leading up to the current revival.

Elvis (movie): I know I’m late to the party, but I finally watched this musical biopic and so enjoyed the glitz and glamor of it. I only wish I’d seen it on the big screen!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s message 2/20/23

The Crown of Thorns: A Lenten Worship Series

Of all the images associated with Jesus’ passion and death, the crown of thorns is likely one of the most familiar to us. Three of the four gospel writers include this detail of the soldiers placing this crown on Jesus’ head as a tool of torture. I find this interesting because there is a lot about Jesus’ passion that they don’t tell us—likely because of how incredibly violent it was.

Why is the crown of thorns important enough to name over and over? Why would we make this a guiding image for our Lenten series together?

Of course, the obvious answer is that Jesus is the King of Kings who gave up his heavenly crown to take on the thorns of sin. In this series, though, I invite you to think about this: the crown of thorns caused tremendous pain on Jesus’ head. The mind of Christ was literally surrounded by suffering. When we think of mental health, and the pain that so many are enduring, often quietly, the Scriptures remind us that Jesus is well-acquainted with what our minds endure.

I am not a mental health expert, but I do know that working on our spiritual health can only have a positive impact on us mentally, physically, and emotionally as well. In this series, as we walk from the wilderness through the streets and towards the cross with Jesus, we will listen for the peace he speaks to our minds as well as our hearts. For we know the end of the story: he endured the crown of thorns and now sits enthroned and crowned as King forever. So let us cast our earthly crowns down and invite him to heal our minds, too.

all good things to each of you,

Dr. Darian

Pastor’s message 2/14/2023

Moving Forward as a Congregation

 

In January, the Administrative Council voted unanimously to postpone a congregational vote on disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church.  The Council realized that even they didn’t have a deep understanding about the process, why we were in the process, or what the options are for our church. The vote to postpone will provide time for all the members of our church to study scripture, pray, and seek discernment about our way forward.  Dr. Darian is leading the way now in helping us carry out these important practices together.  She called together a small but diverse group of members to begin thinking about ways to accomplish these goals.  Shane Alpe, Elizabeth Bailey, Freddie Brister, Pam Carson, Jack Jameson and Laura Tinsley gathered around the pastor’s dining table and began the discussion.  Steven White was unable to attend.

Concerns that were expressed and discussed include the importance of :

  • Focusing on the why of disaffiliation as well as the how;
  • Avoiding hurry in the process, but moving steadily and prayerfully;
  • Learning about all options;
  • Keeping communication open;
  • Sharing information in a variety of ways;
  • Understanding our mission and purpose as this particular congregation.

Two priorities seemed to emerge from the discussion.   First, we want to inform the congregation of the reasons that have brought us to this point along with the procedures to move forward. Second, and equally important, we want to bring our vision for West Point FUMC into clear focus as we continue to carry out our mission as God’s people in this place.  To this end Laura Tinsley has agreed to lead the visioning goal and Freddie Brister the informational goal.  The group members expressed deep faith that as God leads us, we will grow as a church in ways we never dreamed.

The committee will meet again to set dates for sharing with the congregation.  Please contact any member if you have suggestions.

Elizabeth Bailey

Pastor’s message 2/8/23

What’s Worth Salvaging

I subscribe to a meal delivery service, and last week, the bag containing one of three meal kits was
soaked. A small plastic bag that contained a pre-made, cream cheese base for a soup had torn in
transit and now soaked all the other ingredients in the bag.

I reacted with a shrug of the shoulders and resignation that the meal was lost. I confess that my first
instinct was to throw it all away —until I looked more closely. Nothing else was bruised, torn, or
broken. Messy and sticky on the outside, yes, but on the inside the ingredients were whole and fresh
and ready for cooking. The meal was not beyond repair. Its pieces simply needed salvaging. I
washed everything, one piece at a time, dried them, and placed them swaddled in a cloth inside the
bowl.

Life can get messy. We mere mortals have torn places within us, we sometimes feel torn by others,
and we tear at others. Sometimes we can’t see what is whole because of the mess of what is broken.
How easily we forget that the body of Christ is made up of broken and torn people whom He felt
were worth salvaging. Shouldn’t we do the same?

There is no better time for the body of Christ to focus on two immediate tasks, two lessons from
yet-unprepared soup. One is to remember our baptisms. We are cleansed one by one, and baptism is
the outward sign of what Jesus has done in the hearts of those who believe. The other is to wash one
another’s feet. Before he went to the cross, Jesus cleansed one foot at at time. These were the same
feet that would flee from him in abandonment in his hour of need. Yet they were worth salvaging.

Beloved, you are worth salvaging today. You are not beyond repair. Remember your baptism. Be
thankful. Let us not be quick to judge, but instead let us be quick to kneel, to plunge our hands into
the water and find a way forward. In our brokenness we are whole, and in our cleansing, we have
been made free.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian