Pastor’s Message – March 31, 2020

What We Need to Know

I am so thankful for the ways we are being the church even though we are not able to gather in the church building. There are so many good, creative ideas blossoming in this desert time, and I give thanks for your ingenuity!

Out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with the federal recommendations, all in-person activities at the church are cancelled until April 30, at which time we will reevaluate. We will continue to offer worship on Facebook Live and on the radio and other safe opportunities for you to connect from a distance. Read this whole newsletter as I can’t fit all those opportunities onto one

* Staying Home: As much as we would love to see you, we love you enough to say, “stay home,” during this pandemic. We ask that you not come inside the church building so as to protect yourself and others. The church office will be open for the next two weeks from 9AM until 12PM if you need to call us.

* Facebook Live: Keep in mind that Facebook Live is sometimes overwhelmed on Sunday mornings with so many churches depending on it during the worship hour. This can lead to a shaky video or delayed sound. If you have trouble watching, remember that the video will be available later in the day, and you can watch at any

* Bulletin: If you would like a hard copy of the bulletin mailed to you, please let Julie know by calling 662-494-1658 or emailing us at

Finally, and most importantly, remember these words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 16:33: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – March 24, 2020

Prime Time For Prayer

Dearly Beloved Friends,

How is it with your soul today?

This past Sunday was Laureate Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, and is designated as a day to encourage children to keep the faith and rejoice at this late point in the Lenten season. My guess is that ALL of us children of God need some encouragement right now! One of the ways we can encourage each other in our isolation is to pray not only for healing from COVID-19 in the present but also to focus our prayers on the future. This is prime time for prayer, for us to humble ourselves and pray for God’s mercy.

The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.~1 Samuel 16:13 (The Message)

I want to encourage you to make this Scripture a part of your daily prayers. Insert the names of your loved ones where David’s name is. Claim God’s power. Call on the Holy Spirit. Pray about the tasks for which God has chosen the young people in your lives.

As we continue to monitor regulations for the COVID-19 pandemic and response, know that we are working at the church to keep you safely connected to each other. Our task force met this past Sunday, and I encourage you to keep them in your prayers, as well as the church staff. The task force is made up of these church leaders: Jim Helveston, Bill Maclean, Robin McCormick, Melanie Sanders, Marc Stewart, and Jessi Sugg.

This week the church office plans to be open 9AM-12PM. As much as we’d love to see you in person, it is really safer for everyone if you contact us by phone or email rather than come to the church building. We are including staff’s phone numbers in the newsletter if you need to reach us.

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

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, March 29, 2020
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11

John 11:1-45


Pastor’s Message – March 17, 2020

A Special Edition for An Unusual Time
Because of adjustments we made to our worship services on Sunday, I was able to watch the beginning of CBS Sunday Morning, one of my favorite shows. It was a rerun from last year, an episode recapping highlights on the show’s 40th anniversary. Host Jane Pauley recorded an introduction where she explained the reasoning for the rerun. Changes caused by the spread of COVID-19 kept the staff from producing a new episode. Pauley began the show by welcoming viewers to “a special edition for an unusual time.”
As I prepared for our worship service an hour later, I thought, “What an apt description for the church, too!” A mostly-empty sanctuary on Sunday morning was certainly unusual. What made it special was that through the beauty of technology and the willingness of volunteers, our homes and lives were full of God’s Spirit in worship.
Peter writes to the early church in his first letter these words: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9, New King James Version).” I love how this translation describes the Church as a “special people.” Now is the time when we can truly shine the love of Christ and our trust in God.
We will continue to monitor and assess appropriate responses to COVID-19 prayerfully, thoughtfully, and without fear. Please make sure you are signed up for email, text, and social media notifications to stay informed.
Let us be God’s special edition to one another in an unusual time, giving thanks each step of the way!
 all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian
Lectionary Texts for Sunday, March 22, 2020
1 Samuel 6:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Pastor’s Message – March 3, 2020

Feet In the Present, Eyes on the Future
This week I have been at an annual meeting of the Board of Ordained Ministry to interview candidates for ministry. Some of these candidates have recently completed their theological education and are entering full-time ministry. Others are coming before us for ordination after serving in local ministry. I’ve had the privilege of chairing these interviews for four years. One of the greatest joys of preparing for this year’s interviews is that I have been training the person who will take my place as interview chair next year. No matter how much I’ve enjoyed the past few years in this leadership role, I am equally joyful to plan for its
In the local church, we are called to do good work right now while also planning for the future, ever thankful for what God has already done. One of the ways we are planning for our church’s future is to revamp our visioning team. This group has done great work in recent years, and now we’ve assembled some who previously served along with new members. The group is smaller than it previously was, and the love for our church at our first meeting this year was so heartening. Our feet are in the present while our eyes are on the future, which makes my work in the present so much easier. I look forward to your hearing more from the team as our work continues.
I am grateful to be walking with each of you through this Lenten season!
                                                                                                     all good things to each of you.
Pastor (Dr.) Darian
Lectionary Texts for March 8, 2020
Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

Pastor’s Message – February 25, 2020

There’s a Nickel in My Coffee
A few mornings a week, Isaac the dog and I go to one of our favorite places in West Point: Love’s Truck Stop. Isaac loves the smells, I love their coffee, and of course my vehicle loves the gasoline, so it’s appropriately named, “Love’s.” I discovered in an early trip that if I took my own, reusable coffee mug, I could get 16 ounces of freshly brewed coffee for $1.30. I am now in the habit of carrying exactly $1.30 in the store and love this little bit of predictability in my day.
Recently though, something minor but unpredictable happened. In putting the lid on my mug full of medium roast, a nickel fell out of my hand into the coffee. Never in my life had I made the statement, “There’s a nickel in my coffee,” but it was so true! I stared at the seemingly perfect cup of joe puzzled and stilled. What was the best next step? To get a spoon and dig out the nickel? I couldn’t find a spoon. Pour it out and try to catch the nickel? Um, no, I didn’t want to burn my hand. How dirty would the coffee be, and did the “5-second rule” apply to loose change falling in coffee? Maybe I could still safely drink it…
I did get a fresh cup after pouring out the nickel-flavored blend and rescuing the hot nickel. In those few moments, I had experienced on a very small scale what we go through everyday. When the unexpected happens, how do we respond? And how might we better prepare ourselves to respond to life’s unexpected, often unwanted, happenings?
Jesus’ earthly ministry was full of the unexpected. People in need interrupted him on his journeys. Scholars surprised him with tricky questions. His dear friend and relative, John, died horrifically after his arrest. Friends abandoned him. Through it all, he kept on walking, kept on ministering, and kept on praying.
As we journey with Jesus to the cross this Lenten season, let us remember that he understands life’s shocks and surprises, and he wants to help us respond well. He endured, and so can we with his strength, no matter how many nickels fall.
all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian
Lectionary Texts for Sunday, March 1, 2020
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

Pastor’s Message – February 18, 2020

Transformed: A Lenten Worship Series
Next week we will enter the Lenten season, a time we set apart as the Church (and a church) to seek how we need to change. Some of us will take up new habits, and others will fast from favorite indulgences. We’ll receive ashes on our foreheads to begin the season, and we’ll wave palm branches to exit. In between the dirt of Ash Wednesday and the “hosanna” of Palm/Passion Sunday is a great opportunity to be transformed with Jesus Christ as we follow him into the desert.
Some of our youngest church members have introduced me to their toys that are called “transformers.” They’ve even brought them to the children’s sermon—a good example for all off us to bring our friends to church! Of course I had heard of transformers, but truth be told I didn’t really know what they were. The young men explained how they work to me: a few flips and clicks and you have a whole new toy, different from what it had been.
My curiosity was high, so I searched for “transformers” on Wikipedia. Thousands of words and images overwhelmed my computer screen! There were so many explanations of transformers, and it sounded so complex. I realized my young friends’ explanations were the simplest and best: these were creatures that changed!
Such is the simple and powerful message of the Lenten season: God changes us if we will put ourselves in his hands. He gives us the power to change, but we have to be as pliable in his hands as those toys in our young men’s hands. This Sunday we will observe the Transfiguration of Jesus and walk into Lent with our annual Ash Wednesday service at 6PM on February 26. Come and be changed!
all good things to each of you,
Pastor (Dr.) Darian
Lectionary Texts for Transfiguration Sunday, February 23, 2020
Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 2
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

Pastor’s Message – February 11, 2020

Yoga Theology: Waiting In a Small Space
Most mornings, between a walk and breakfast, I make my way to a small space and practice waiting. The small space is my yoga mat, and the practice of waiting begins with breathing. When I first started practicing yoga in college, I was self-conscious. I felt like others in the class were watching and judging my abilities. I was so focused on trying to get the poses right and on watching what others did that I missed out on one of yoga’s main purposes of relaxation.
My feelings were very common among other first-time students, too. I am grateful to have had a teacher early on who addressed those fears directly. She said throughout the classes, “Focus on your body and your mat. All that matters is your body on your mat.” Her words took root in my soul, and with time I associated yoga not with the big room full of people but with the small world of my individual mat. Then I extended the space to me, my mat, and God. It became a place of prayer where with every exhale I let go of the person or circumstance weighing me down, for there was not room for distraction on the mat. There is only room for the Lord. Yoga became not only a way to stretch my body but also a way to wait on Him.
I am looking forward to offering a Yahweh Yoga class with a theme of prayer during the Lenten season where we will wait together. We will meet on Thursday evenings at 6PM, beginning on February 27 and concluding on April 2. I invite you to sign up before then. The only physical requirement is that you have to be able to get up and down off the mat. While we’ll have a limited number of mats available, we encourage you to bring your own if you want to participate. Every week will we have a specific prayer focus to keep us centered on the mat. I hope you will consider participating. If you are not physically comfortable with mat yoga, don’t worry. We’ll be offering a chair yoga series later this year.
May we all seek out those small spaces where there is only room for God, and in preparing the space, encounter him in a mighty way!
all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian
Lectionary Texts for Sunday, February 16, 2020
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 119:1-8
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5:21-37

Pastor’s Message – January 28, 2020

Learning from the Everyday Faithful
My freshman dorm room measured roughly eight feet wide and twelve feet long. Take out the bed, desk, closet, and drawers, and I had exactly enough space for the other college essentials of microwave, tiny fridge, and shelves for a TV/VCR combo. The space was tight, but it was mine.
I loved that little room, my first home away from home, but most of its contents have found other homes over the years. The one faithful, enduring part of that dorm room that has stayed with me, all the way to West Point, was my small, portable space heater. I even still have the original box it came in! Winter months in that old (now demolished) residence hall were tricky for the thermostat. The heat was either too much or not enough, so I came to depend on the space heater when I sat at my desk studying to keep my feet comfortably warm. It has come in handy in every room or house where I’ve lived since then, most recently for the vanity area of my bathroom. Yes, the space heater was worn and dated and needed to be watched, but it faithfully kept me warm.
Sadly, this is the space heater’s last winter with us. The cord has begun to fray, and the time has come to part with it. As I packed it up in the original box and placed it outside, I couldn’t help but think of how the world is full of everyday faithfulness: a key that turns our cars to “on,” a shopping cart that carries our food, a lightbulb that helps us to see. The list could go on for pages.
Yet how often do we stop to say “thank you” to God for the faithful parts of our lives? And how often do we stop to say “thank you” to the people who are faithful parts of our lives?
This week, let us pay attention to one another. Let us take the time to say “thank you” to each other for the actions we overlook. Let us pause to thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who taught us how to live faithfully to him and each other. And may he find us faithful to him!
                                                                                                   all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian
Lectionary Texts for Sunday, February 2, 2020
Micah 6:1-8
Psalm 15
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Matthew 5:1-12

Pastor’s Message – January 14, 2020

It’s a Wonderful Beginning
Every Christmas Eve, I enjoy watching the last hour of the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life. With commercials on network television, the movie lasts close to three hours, but it is in the last hour that the angel, Clarence, appears to George Bailey and walks him through a life where he was never born. As a result, George “wakes up” to what a wonderful life he has. Indeed, the movie has a wonderful ending that is usually enough for me on Christmas Eve.
However, this most recent holiday was different. While cooking dinner and winding down after a beautiful and full service, I turned on the television as It’s a Wonderful Life began. I had been watching the ending for so long that I’d forgotten the beginning. Two angels, Senior Angel and Joseph Angel, appearing to the viewer as stars in the night sky, discuss George’s case. Soon the whimsical and childlike angel, Clarence, joins them and receives his instructions that a man on earth named George Bailey needs his help. Clarence asks, “Is he sick?” Senior Angel replies, “No, worse. He’s discouraged.”
Senior Angel reminds us of something important: sometimes discouragement is one of the worst ailments we experience, worse than physical pain. The good news, friends, is that we are all capable of giving to each other the opposite of discouragement: encouragement. The Lord trusts us to give courage to each other—and to ask for it when we are down. George Bailey’s epiphany of how wonderful his life was began when people prayed for him and when he cried out himself. Let us be quick to recognize discouragement in ourselves and each other, and let us be even quicker to offer the word, ear, or shoulder needed to build each other up.
What a wonderful beginning to 2020 this will be, and what a wonderful life we will share, as we share courage with each other!
 all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Pastor’s Message – January 7, 2020

Fresh Mercies Every Morning
The great hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” includes in the chorus a powerful reminder of God’s sustenance: Morning by morning, new mercies I see. When I hear or sing these words, I remember a trip I made to a village in France during seminary. There was a local baker in town, and every morning people would travel there for fresh bread. While the bread was edible beyond one day, it was better when new each morning.
Last week, the local bakery from which we buy bread for Holy Communion was closed for a holiday break, so I offered to pick up a couple of loaves elsewhere. I bought the loaves on Friday, and how delicious they smelled. However, when I arrived on Sunday morning, those loaves were hard as rocks! We made do for the early worship service, but as soon as it was over I ran to Wal-Mart in search of fresh bread and new mercies. (And I even saw some of you there who were skipping church! Haha.)
The Bread of Life, whose sacrifice we remember and participate in at the Lord’s Table, never grows stale. He desires to feed us each and every day. Have you asked for new, fresh mercies each day? Now’s a good time to start. Let us declare how great his faithfulness is by testifying to a God whose hand has provided all we have ever needed—and all that we need for today.
                                                                                                    all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian
Lectionary Texts for Sunday, January 12, 2020 (Baptism of the Lord)
Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17
Last Friday, The United Methodist Church was in the news because of a proposal that recommends splitting the denomination. Please know that no changes have taken place in our Church’s structure. Only the General Conference of the UMC can vote on such matters, and that conference will convene in May of this year. This proposal is one of many petitions that the General Conference will consider. I will share more information with you in educational sessions and conversations closer to the time of General Conference. I will also post on the church’s Facebook page a couple of articles that will go into more detail. If you wish to make an appointment to visit with me one-on-one about this matter, know that I am available. ~ Pastor Darian