Pastor’s message 7/10/23

Discernment Updates: A Congregational Call to Prayer

For the past month, the discernment committee has regularly met, compiled an informational slide show, received and responded to your questions while compiling them into an FAQ, and organized presentations from two guest speakers. You also have received a survey that the committee will be receiving until Sunday, July 16.

On July 20, the discernment committee will enter into a week-long intentional time of quiet reflection on Scriptural study and invites the congregation to unite with us in prayer and meditation. The committee prayerfully plans to make a recommendation to Administrative Council by the end of July based on the congregation’s feedback.

As we prepare for that week of quiet, which will include an invitation to fasting, please join me daily in three things, beginning on July 12:

  1. Read the Scriptures assigned to each day and spend time with them.
  2. Offer the following prayer at least 3 times daily: Lord Jesus, soften my heart. Holy Spirit, soften the heart of our church. Heavenly Father, mold and make our hearts after Your will.
  3. Sing or listen to the hymn, “I Surrender All.”

Wednesday, July 12: Ephesians 4:1-6

Thursday, July 13: Philippians 2:5-11

Friday, July 14: 2 Timothy 2:1-7

Saturday, July 15: Ephesians 1:15-23

Sunday, July 16: Colossians 1:9-18

Monday, July 17:1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Tuesday, July 18: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Wednesday, July 19: 2 Corinthians 1:1-7

Be sure to check out for more resources & guidance on prayer. We will be communicating with you about more opportunities to pray together.

all good things to each of you,

dr. d.

Pastor’s message 7.3.23

Grief and Gratitude


Last Friday afternoon, I had to say, “farewell,” to my faithful, canine companion, Isaac. As you know, he’s been one of my favorite theologians and a consistent source of sermon material in the nearly 11 years we spent together. I’m not sure he always liked the titles of “paw-stor” and “dog-tor” that I bestowed upon him, but he went along with them in love as most of our four-legged friends do.

 A few years ago, I remember seeing that an Episcopal priest and author named William Miller had written an “o-bark-tuary” when he lost his dog named Willie Nelson. I thought to myself then, “I want to write one of those when Isaac’s time comes.” Don’t be surprised if you see an abbreviated version of the “o-bark-tuary” in the newsletter in a few weeks!

 Know how grateful I am for the texts, calls, emails, food, hugs, cards, and all other forms of care you have given to me the past few days. My heart is a healthy mix of heavy and grateful, and I appreciate your continued patience and love as I walk through this grief.

 Since I did not have a chance to share with you the books, movies, and music that brought me joy in June here in the newsletter, I’d like to recommend two books that capture the joy of our pets, even in the midst of loss. The first is The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul by the aforementioned Rev. William Miller. The second is Dog Songs, a collection of poems by Mary Oliver.

 all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s message 6.26.23

Following Up on What Matters

Tornado Relief (From Family Ministries Director, Stacy Hays)

During our visit to Amory a couple of weeks ago for tornado relief, we had our eyes opened to the amount of work that still needs to be done in that area. While we did some cleanup, the amount of tree limbs and debris still covering the town and county is disheartening. There are people living in homes covered in tarps, while others are still staying in hotels. Some churches are not able to worship in their own sanctuaries. We need volunteers who are interested in going back with equipment to move the debris to the road and other areas for pickup. Please let Stacy know if you are willing to help in this important mission and we can begin to organize and make plans for a trip back.

Discernment Season

Be sure to bookmark our discernment committee’s page for regular updates. We will also provide hard copies of the most recent minutes each week. We appreciate everyone’s questions. We are working to answer as many as possible in the FAQ section of the site. This will be evolving as we add questions and answers. Thank you for your patience as we continually update the site. The website is  Also, please remember to come hear Dr. Steve West this Wednesday at 5:30 PM.

Growing in Wisdom

Let us continue to choose one psalm and one chapter of Proverbs to read daily. I hope that each day the Holy Spirit spotlights to you a word, phrase or verse to bring you strength and joy. We will offer some new suggestions next week.

Psalms 101, 105, 102, 108, 120, 121, 122

Proverbs 29, 30, 31


all good things to each of you,

dr. darian


The 2023 session of Annual Conference is meeting in Tupelo this week.  Please be in prayer for all attending, Bishop Lewis, Dr. Darian, and our lay member from FUMC – West Point, Ralph Weems.

Pastor’s message 6.12.23

Listening Together

Teach me wisdom in the secret heart ~Psalm 51:6

Leaning Into Wisdom Together

Let us continue to choose one psalm and one chapter of Proverbs to read daily. I hope that each day the Holy Spirit spotlights to you a word, phrase or verse to bring you strength and joy.

Psalms 72, 71, 73, 75, 93, 80, 78

Proverbs 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28

Summary of Discernment Committee’s First Meeting

The first meeting of the discernment committee was on Wednesday, June 7. We decided to meet weekly on Thursdays at 6PM. Our first order of business was to elect officers and discuss our next steps. Chuck Carson was elected as chair, Brooks Tinsley as vice-chair, and Shannon Wallace as recording secretary.

As a reminder, the members of the committee are Norma Atkins, Tommy Bryan, Chuck Carson, Jeff Hairston, Ladonna Helveston, Tracey Holcombe, Art Shirley, Brooks Tinsley, Shannon Wallace, and Dr. Darian Duckworth.

The committee decided that over the course of this week we will gather information to review at the June 15 meeting and compile into informational sheets to distribute to congregation.

We will also create a page on our website devoted to this season of discernment and our work. Minutes from our meetings will be available on this page as well as any information compiled. Once this page is set up, we will share with you how to access it and how to sign up for updates. All of this is in an effort to maintain transparency and honesty with you.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions. At the top of this page you’ll see a verse from Psalm 51. Let us offer this together as a congregational prayer over the course of this week.

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s message 6.5.23

Discernment, Worship, and Wisdom

This week I have three important areas on which to update you

Discernment Update

I am grateful to share with you that the following church members have agreed to serve on the discernment committee. Please be in prayer for each of us as we prepare for our first gathering:

Norma Atkins                         Tracey Holcombe

Tommy Bryan                         Art Shirley

Chuck Carson                         Brooks Tinsley

Jeff Hairston                           Shannon Wallace

Ladonna Helveston                 Dr. Darian Duckworth

“When the Lord Says GO”: A Summer Worship Series

During the months of June and July, our Sunday morning worship services will be based in Scriptures that charge us to go where God sends us. At the beginning of this year, I heard a pastor say, “God will not ask you to go anywhere he has not already been himself.” We can rejoice in knowing that where God sends us, and what he commands us to do, He has already been there. I encourage you to read the weekly Scriptures that are printed on the back of the newsletter ahead of Sunday worship so that are our hearts will be prepared to listen to the Spirit together.

Leaning Into Wisdom

Let us continue leaning not on our own understanding but rather into God’s Word by reading from the Bible’s wisdom literature. Choose one of the following psalms and proverbs’ chapters to read daily.

Psalms 49, 50, 51, 139, 33, 65, 61

Proverbs 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21

all good things to each of you,

dr. d

Pastor’s message 5.30.23

What’s Brought Us Joy in May

At the end of every month, I like to use this space to share with you the music, movies, television, and arts that have brought me joy over the past month. My hope is that in sharing, we’ll all be inspired to ask where God is stirring joy in each of us.

Born Again by Jess Ray (music): I first heard of Ray in her collaboration with another songwriter named Taylor Leonhardt. They record and lead worship under the name of “Mission House.” This is Ray’s most recent solo album, and I especially love the song, “Lillies and Sparrows,” based on the words of Jesus.

We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza (book): I’m always intrigued with novels written by two authors. This one especially caught my attention because it is a story set amid racial unrest for two best friends. Like the authors, one character is black, and the other is white. The subject matter is serious, but the book flows so easily. I am very glad I read it and will think about for a while.

Field of Dreams (movie): It’s baseball season! Get ready for your annual reference to this classic film in at least one sermon this summer. I actually am finding myself watching my favorite movies on repeat now as opposed to watching newer ones. No matter how many times I watch this beautiful movie, I see or hear something new that teaches me about God’s goodness.

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

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Leaning Into Wisdom Together

This week, choose one of the following psalms & proverbs to read each day:

Psalms 113, 37, 31, 42, 8, 41, 45

Proverbs 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14


Pastor’s message 5.22.23

Leaning Into Wisdom

This past Sunday, I shared that so often we lean the opposite way that Proverbs 3:5 instructs us. This well-known verse commands us, “Lean not on your own understanding.” The other half of the verse is an invitation to lean onto the Lord, to trust him with all the heart. Why do we choose our own knowledge time after time over his wisdom? To be a people of spiritual discernment, who hear the Holy Spirit in community, it is imperative for us to lean into the Lord with trust. The wisdom books are the best place to start. Starting Wednesday, May 24, when many of you will receive this newsletter, please join me in daily readings from Psalms and Proverbs. You can read or listen to the passage, electronically or in print. There will be no quiz! Let’s simply start reading together daily as a congregation.

Wednesday, May 24: Psalm 101, Proverbs 1

Thursday, May 25: Psalm 105, Proverbs 2

Friday, May 26: Psalm 102, Proverbs 3

Saturday, May 27: Psalm 107, Proverbs 4

Sunday, May 28: Psalm 104, Proverbs 5

Monday, May 29: Psalm 9, Proverbs 6

Tuesday, May 30: Psalm 36, Proverbs 7

      all good things to each of you,

dr. d

Guest message from Gail Foote 5.15.23

Celebrating Our Child Development Center

The Child Development Center has been experiencing a renewal. Many of you have noticed how much brighter the center looks with all the new paint, furniture, toys, and a safer playground.  A delightful mural has just been created by West Point’s own extremely talented Deborah Mansfield. All who see it leave with a smile, and the children and parents love it!

In addition to the physical changes, the Center is experiencing new energy led by the staff, the CDC Board and many volunteers. Church members have often moved out of their comfort zones to lead Monday chapel or Friday reading sessions with these lovely children. Others are organizing toys, books, and games in the resource room to make everything readily accessible. Everyone wants to be appreciated, especially those who work with some of God’s greatest blessings, so volunteers provide treats each Friday to emphasize the importance of the CDC employees. Besides these improvements, plans for new activities are in the works.

The Center would like to recognize the individuals who are giving their time and talents this year to create a special place for the children and staff.

Elizabeth Bailey                                     Wilma Hinshaw

Joyce Brister                                          Holly Hitt

Jane Caston                                            Janet Jameson

Donna Cook                                          George Purnell

Rebecca DeSantis                                   Luann Purnell

Anna Dill                                              Lona Rosetti

Jean Dill                                                Judy Sanders

Linda Drake                                           Melanie Sanders

Darian Duckworth                                  Sara Frances Stubbs

Dee Echols                                            Jessi Sugg

Mary Carr Ecklund                                 Rachel Wood

Gail Foote                                             Kathy Wood

Julie Gray                                              Ann Wade

Diane Haas                                            Elizabeth Zepponi

Debbie Hinshaw                                  Pam Carson

 Ann Jameson

If you, too, want to join this list of talented volunteers, the CDC would love to have you.  Please contact George Purnell (662-295-3738) or Anna Dill (662-481-7805) if you are interested.

Pastor’s message 5.8.23

Words of Wisdom For Us All

Many of us are likely familiar with the teachings and writings of Dr. Charles Stanley, who served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta for many years. Dr. Stanley passed away a few weeks ago after a long, fruitful life, and a ministry that reached thousands of people. Since my parents live in Atlanta and attend a church whose pastor was greatly influenced by Dr. Stanley, they have shared numerous videos and interviews of him with me recently. A statement we heard over and over from him was so simple and powerful, a motto that he lived by:

Obey God, and leave the consequences to him.

I love these two “commandments” that are one. Another way we could express it is in title of the old hymn, “Trust and Obey.” In one of the interviews I watched with Dr. Stanley, he told a story of a feeling I’ve been familiar with lately. He stood up in the pulpit one Sunday with no idea of what he would say! For days he had been “stuck” and couldn’t think of what he was supposed to preach. He asked God over and over, spent much time in prayer, but when he got up on Sunday morning, he still had nothing. He walked to the pulpit that day, said a silent prayer, opened his Bible, and it fell open to this verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

And from there, the sermon flowed. God’s Spirit flows through us as well, and it all begins with these two words of wisdom: Obey and Trust. Trust and Obey.

Whatever you are facing this week, I hope you will hear our Lord  Jesus’ invitation to rest in Him, to obey his commandments, and to trust the flow of His Holy Spirit. Let us continue to listen for and share such words of wisdom

all good things to each of you,

dr. d

Pastor’s message 5.2.23

A Pastoral Letter

Dearly Beloved Friends,

Over the past few months, the word I have heard most often to describe disaffiliation in the United Methodist Church is, “confusing.” How true this is with so much information at our fingertips! As I wrote in this space two weeks ago, the process of gathering accurate information has been challenging, and I apologize that we have not given you anything formally yet. That changes as of today though, as I bring you an update from the Administrative Council.

The Council met on Sunday, April 30, and approved that our church enter into a season of discernment with the formation of a discernment committee to be led by me as your pastor, shepherd, and spiritual leader. This is something that I have desired to assemble and lead you in for months, and with the Administrative Council’s blessing, now is the time to start.

This is very important: discernment is not disaffiliation. Discernment is consistent listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit in community. Disaffiliation is a process that churches may enter into after a season of discernment. What I’ve been charged with doing is gathering and overseeing a discernment committee who will lead our congregation in learning and listening to God together. Our district superintendent, Rev. Paulette Buford-James tells us that discernment includes the following: “fasting, prayer, study of scripture, information gathered and surveying of the congregation by a straw poll vote.”

Every week on the inside of this newsletter will be a short update on the progress of assembling and gathering the discernment committee, followed by updates when we start meeting. Once a month, I’ll provide a longer update in this space, and we will send additional mailings as necessary.

As I shared with the Council on Sunday, I share with you: I love you. I am honored to serve as your pastor. Trust me to lead you, and I trust you to be led by the Holy Spirit. Let us move forward in faith that God is doing and will do great things through our church.


all good things, as always, to each of you,

dr darian