Pastor’s Message – March 2, 2021

What Brought Us Joy In February

Towards the end of every 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.

All Creatures Great and Small (TV show): This recent PBS Masterpiece series was a remake of a show from the 1970s, based on a series of books of the same name. It tells the story of young veterinarian, James Herriot, who works in the Yorkshire dales. Not only is the scenery beautiful, the animals are charming, and I want to share a meal with the characters. My favorite line came in the season finale, when a young vet tending to an ailing donkey from the nativity program says, “I’m dressed as an elf, and my date is a donkey.”

In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu (book): I first became familiar with Mitch Landrieu when a speech he gave about monument removal hit national news. I remember thinking, “How did he come to that decision?” This book marvelously tells his story of how years of conversations, relationships, and observations contributed not only to this decision but others he made. It is an excellent study in leadership.

A Drink With a Friend (podcast): Originally hosted by author Tsh Oxenreider with the title, “The Good List,” this podcast is now a conversation between her and another author named Seth Haines. Not only do they offer fabulous drink recommendations appropriate for all ages (I now love Bubly sparkling water because of them). They also talk theology, current events, and much more in a thoughtful manner. My favorite episode is the one about Lent.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – February 23, 2021

Church People

Have you ever seen an object unexpectedly in a new way?

This happened to me recently while drinking a cup of coffee at my breakfast table, one of my favorite spots in the house. Hanging above the coffee maker is a painting by Vicksburg-based artist, Tony Davenport. Titled, “Church People,” the painting has been a part of my home for nearly nine years. It is full of color and joy as well as a holy reverence with churchgoers depicted all face the same direction, heads raised and gaze fixed.

Every day, multiple times a day, I look at the painting. But on this particular morning, the “church people” within it reminded me to look toward Jesus. For years these worshippers had silently been calling me to stop and “lift my eyes to the hills.”

What does it mean for us to be a “church people?” Perhaps our primary calling to God and with one another is to help keep each others’ eyes where they need to be: looking above and beyond the immediate and toward the bright, joyful colors of God’s kingdom.

As we continue to walk through this Lenten season, where do you see God’s kingdom in your everyday life? And how are you leading one another as “church people” toward Jesus?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – February 16, 2021

Lenten Prayers and Practices

By the time most of you read this, the Lenten season will have begun with our Ash Wednesday service. As I previously shared, our Sunday worship series during this meaningful and reflective season is all about grief—and how the Scripture can guide us through grief into a deeper place of peace in Jesus.

I want to invite you into a few practices this season as a community of faith, centered in worship and expressed in our love for God and neighbor.

1. Memorize The Invocation: For the next five Sundays, our invocation in the worship service will be the same prayer, known as, “The Collect for Purity.” I encourage you to commit it to memory. If you have youth or children in your household, say this prayer together in your homes and discuss what you think each part means. I find myself returning often to this prayer when I’m struggling with words, and it is so powerful.

2. Donate Your Dimes: On the second page of this newsletter are the projects for our local Lenten mission this year, and the one that I’m most excited about is a new one. Get a 16 ounce, empty water bottle, and fill it with dimes. What if every family in our church filled one bottle? What an easy way to make a big impact on ministries in our community that need our support!

3. Make a Phone Call: As we learn more about grief in this season’s worship series, we’re also very aware that so many of us are grieving different losses. When the Holy Spirit places someone on your heart who might be struggling through grief, why not pick up the phone and call her/him? Or send a note in the mail? In the same vein, if you are walking through grief and need an ear, pick up the phone and call someone. Schedule a time to talk. This is all part of building up the body of Christ, and he is with us in those conversations.

I look forward to walking through this beautiful season with you.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Lenten Mission Project – February 9, 2021

Lenten Mission Project

This year for our Lenten Mission Project we have chosen three agencies in the Golden Triangle that serve children and adults: Contact Helpline, Safe Haven and Sally Kate Winters Family Services.

Contact Helpline serves the counties of Clay, Choctaw, Kemper, Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Winston as a 24 hour crisis intervention and referral service. Contact is also an initial point of contact for an entire range of community resources. Volunteers are trained to listen with their hearts to assist callers through personal crises. This non-profit provides three basic services: a 24 hour faith based phone service; a reassurance program that seeks to meet the special needs of the elderly or physically challenged who are living alone and Contact A Friend, which is a service for children and teenagers to provide them with a resource that they may use to discuss difficult issues they may be facing in their lives.

Safe Haven is a non-profit organization that provides emergency shelter and crisis intervention for women and children who are victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Victims services range from temporary housing to professional crisis counseling. Save Haven also provides a 24 hour crisis hotline, children’s programs, community educational outreach and volunteer program referrals. Safe Haven serves the counties of Lowndes, Clay, Oktibbeha, Monroe, Attala, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Montgomery, Webster and Choctaw.

With a mission to empower children and families to seek and experience an improved quality of life, Sally Kate Winters Family Services is a non-profit organization that offers social services and support to children and families throughout North Mississippi. The shelter was established in 1990 as a safe haven for children who have been traumatized by child abuse and neglect. In the years since, the organization has expanded to offer services to runaways and the homeless youth population in Mississippi through it’s Child Advocacy Center. SKW Family Services now offers four programs – the Emergency Shelter Program, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, the Transitional Living Program and the Child Advocacy Center.

We have several fund-raisers planned during the Lenten season to help raise funds for these three important missions. We will start off with our Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper To Go! Be sure to sign up for a pick up time.

Pastor’s Message – February 2, 2021

Preparing For Lent:
Ashes On The Go, A New Worship Series, and More To Come

It is hard to believe that the Lenten season begins in a little over two weeks. We may still be struggling to make long-range plans in the midst of a pandemic, but one thing that does not change is the Church year! This week and next, here in this newsletter space, we are sharing what we’re hoping to focus on during the Lenten season. Mark your calendars, and get ready for a wonderful season of growth as the body of Christ!

Ash Wednesday Service: Ash Wednesday is on February 17. For those who feel comfortable doing so, we will offer imposition of the ashes in a “drive thru” setting. Starting at 6PM, you may drive up to the church’s covered driveway, and we will impose the ashes on your forehead. You don’t even have to get out of the car! Masks will be worn.

Starting at 6:30PM, we will also offer a virtual Ash Wednesday service on Facebook and You Tube. Even if you come in person to receive ashes, be sure to tune into this service as well for prayer and reflection!

Lenten Worship Series: I am so looking forward to this series as I think you will find it relevant, uplifting, and comforting. It is titled, “The Good Kind of Grief,” and each week we will focus on different kinds of grief people in the Scriptures encountered and how they dealt with it. With so much loss experienced this past year, my hope is that you will especially feel the healing presence of Jesus as we walk through this Lenten season together.

More To Come: We have some exciting news about our Lenten Mission Project, Shrove Tuesday Pancake Kick-Off, and fundraisers for that special offering. Curious? Tune in to this space in next week’s newsletter for all the details.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – January 26, 2021

What Brought Us Joy In January

Towards the end of every month, I enjoy sharing with you about my latest favorites in music, movies, TV shows, books, and podcasts. I used to title this monthly note as “what we’re watching, reading, etc.” I think a more appropriate title for this time of reflection is “what brought us joy.” 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 Repair Shop (TV show on Netflix): The premise of this show is likely to make a sermon appearance soon. In the British countryside is this real-life repair shop where people apply to bring treasured items that are broken. Watching the processes of restoration and the expressions on the owners’ faces when they see the finish product lift the spirit and warm the heart.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (book): Sometimes I just need a good mystery and page turner. What makes this one even better is that it’s a modern retelling of Jane Eyre set in Birmingham, Alabama! Do know that it’s PG-13 at times, but it’s a great escape for those who love suspense.

Mission House (music): Musicians Taylor Leonhardt and Jess Ray joined forces a couple of years ago to lead home worship gatherings. The result is Mission House, and their self-titled debut has been on repeat in my office for a week. I especially love the song, “I Don’t Have Much.” There is something so special about worship music offered in small gatherings that brings me so much joy, and the songs are deep while also easy to sing.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – January 12, 2021

Bright Spots on a Dark Day

Last Wednesday, on a day when the Church celebrates Christ’s eternal light with the Epiphany, we witnessed a lot of darkness at the U.S. Capitol. There are many layers to those events that will take time and effort for all of us to unpack, and I encourage you to stay well-educated and to “pray without ceasing” in the weeks to come.

In the midst of a dark day, I read a couple of articles that revealed true bright spots, of Epiphany light. I am sharing them here and encourage you to seek them out online at the publication sources. They are two among many.

“How House Chaplain calmed tense hours in besieged Capitol with prayers for ‘God’s covering’” (Religion News Service: January 6 was only the third day of work for the House of Representatives’ new chaplain. Read how the power of prayer and Scripture brought comfort and strength to those huddled in fear.

“ ‘What Else Could I Do?’ NJ Rep. Kim helps clean up Capitol” (Associated Press, A photo of Andy Kim helping to clean up the Rotunda shed an important light on the faithful staff who showed up in the middle of the night to do their unseen, unappreciated jobs of literally picking up the pieces. When I read this article, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus kneeling down to wash the disciples’ feet, and how he views “success,” even in the grandest halls of the world.

And now, beloved friends, how will YOU shine Epiphany light this week?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – January 5, 2021

The Season After Epiphany Worship Series:
A New Year of Spiritual Resolutions

A happy new year and blessed Epiphany to each of you. I hope these past couple of weeks have revealed the joy of Christmas to each of you. As I shared on Sunday, we have embarked on a new worship series all about resolutions/goals/intentions/(insert your word of choice) to help us grow closer to Jesus. In this first newsletter of the year, I’m providing you with upcoming Scriptures and sermon titles in the hope you will read those passages ahead of time in preparation for what the Spirit might teach us together. I’m also including a verse of poetry/song from the Bible for you to meditate upon or to sing. I look forward to growing with you as part of the wonderful body of Christ in this season of light!

January 10                             “Climbing Trees”                                            Psalm 29
January 17                             “Seeing the World”                                        John 1:43-51
January 24                             “Leaving Our Boats Behind”                       Mark 1:14-20
January 31                              “Celebrating What God Has Done”           Psalm 111
February 7                               “Preaching the Gospel”                               1 Corinthians 9:16-18

In honor of the Epiphany this week, let us sit with the prophet Isaiah. Take a moment to pause at the end of each line and re-read the line, letting its truth sink into your soul. Try adding your own melody to it and sing to the Lord, too.

Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. ~ Isaiah 60:5

all good things to each of you,

Dr. Darian

* Our church’s COVID-19 task force plans to meet the week of January 11 to reassess guidelines for our gatherings. Please continue to pray for these wonderful leaders as we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice together.*

Pastor’s Message – December 22, 2020

My Favorite Things: 2020 Edition

For this last newsletter of 2020, I’d like to share briefly about the book, album, and movie that have resonated most with me this year. These are not necessarily “the best of the year,” but they have been “the best for me this year.” I hope this sharing will encourage you to reflect on where you’ve heard God’s voice, too.

The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams (book): I had intended to read this book when working on my doctoral thesis, but it was displaced by necessary academic reads. When I finally read it back in February, I was blown away by Yip-Williams’ story. She reflects on her life as a young woman dying of cancer, and she manages not to shy away from lament but also not to avoid humor. And what a life it is. I especially love the cameo appearance of how a local church enters the story in a powerful way towards the end.

Reunions by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Every album Jason Isbell releases seems better than the one before. This one arrived in May, and though it was recorded before the pandemic, its messages resonated nonetheless. One of my favorite lyrics is, “It gets easier, but it never gets easy.” And when I heard, “Dreamsicle,” I immediately bought a box of dreamsicles to eat on my back porch in the hot summer months: a small but wonderful pleasure!

Little Women (movie): The last movie I saw in the theater was on January 3, and it was Greta Gerwig’s marvelous production of Little Women. Technically the movie came out in 2019, but I’m claiming seeing it with a friend in the theater as one of the best parts of 2020. Because so much of the story takes place at Christmas, I look forward to watching it again to close out 2020. The story is familiar, of course, but this is a whole new way of telling it: much like the Greatest Story we will hear this week, too!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – December 15, 2020

“It Can’t Be”

Last week my parents sent me an article that embodied the hope, peace, joy, and love of this Advent season. The Washington Post article was about a dog named Abby who wandered away from her home in Dothan, Alabama. For three weeks, her pet parents searched for her and hoped that she would eventually come home-even though it was hard to “hope” as time passed.

Then on November 28, Abby’s pet parent, June, was working at her cashier’s station in Wal-Mart when a small commotion developed nearby. A dog had gotten in the store and was running loose. Employees followed it and tried to calm and safely catch the scared pup. June told The Washington Post that Abby came to her mind immediately. She said out loud, “It can’t be.”

A glimmer of hope grew in June’s heart as she called out Abby’s name-a shot in the dark. Within moments, the dog had come to her, and indeed, it was Abby. The dog that had been lost for three weeks had now been found by finding her way “home.”

There is something about the Advent season and Christmas that cause us to see miracles more clearly. It’s in the season that we recall that what to us “can’t be” actually did happen. Messiah has come, has made his home with us, so that we with Abby might find our way home to our Heavenly Parent.

As we inch closer and closer to that day when we celebrate the most miraculous celebration, may we embrace the knowledge that “can’t be” truly can. Let’s believe in miracles. Let’s turn that one candle of hope into a blazing Advent wreath of miracles!

all good things to each of you, Dr. Darian