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, 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



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

Pastor’s message 9.11.23

The Upcoming Church Vote

Dearly Beloved Friends,

If you are on the church’s membership roll, you have received or will soon be receiving a letter from lay leader, Freddie Brister, about the upcoming Church Conference on Sunday, September 24. If you do not receive a letter and believe you should have, please contact the church office.

I did want to share a few important details about the voting procedure as well as an invitation to prayer.

  1. You must be registered and seated in the sanctuary at 1:30 with your ballot in order to vote. Registration begins at 12:30 at the back of the sanctuary. Please plan accordingly because if you arrive after 1:30, you will not be allowed in to vote.


  1. We will reserve some pews at the back of the sanctuary for our elder members and others who need assistance.


  1. If you or someone you know needs a ride to the church or help getting in & out of the conference, please contact the church office, and we will work to find someone to help you


  1. Do not mark your ballot until the presiding elder tells you to do so during the church conference. The ballots will be collected and counted at the front of the sanctuary, in front of everyone, for full transparency.


  1. The presiding elder will give detailed instructions about the procedure and ballot throughout the conference. Let us be at ease & at peace knowing that God is with us in this process.

Let us pray together: Holy God, who was and is and is to come, you are on the throne. Take the seat of authority in this, your church. We give ourselves to you. We surrender the upcoming church conference to you. We listen for the voice of your Holy Spirit. Give us peace in the process and in the result. Help us to focus on obedience, and not outcome. For you are the Lord of it all, and we give everyone and everything to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s message 9.4.23

Finding “Good Dog”

Like many of you, I look forward to Prairie Arts Festival every Labor Day weekend. One vendor whose work I especially enjoy perusing is Scott McQueen. Not only is he a fun and engaging conversationalist, each piece of his folk art is a conversation in itself!

 A few years back, I bought a painting of a train that he did and gave it to my dad. Then last year I bought a church made of wood and buttons for myself. This year, I looked forward to his newest creations and wondered if one would “find” me. Pretty soon after walking up, I saw it:

 It was a painting on wood of a smiling white dog, with a crown on his head, and the words, “GOOD DOG,” glued on. It looked like a compact and simplified rendering of my beloved dog, Isaac, who passed away two months ago. Of course, I had to have it—and poor Scott got an earful as I told him the story of Isaac!

 Prairie Arts always reminds me of the ways God is showing up with His wonders and marvels. There was no way that Scott McQueen knew about a dog named Isaac (who believed he was king) in West Point, but God used his gifts to provide me with a reminder of God’s presence —and humor. Such signs of God’s loving and caring presence are everywhere. Do we open our eyes long enough to see them?

 Let us be on the lookout today for sightings of his glory and signs of his presence!

all good things to each of you,

Dr. Darian

Pastor’s message 8.28.23

What’s Brought Me Joy This Summer

It’s been a few months since I shared with you in this space about the music, books, and movies that have brought me joy recently. I hope that in taking about what I’ve enjoyed that you will take the time, also, to pay attention to how God is speaking to you.

 Oppenheimer (film): I may not have seen the Barbie film yet, but I did see the summer’s other big movie. I can’t remember the last time I watched a 3-hour movie in the theater, but this epic journey was worth every minute. A biopic about the man who invented the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer is one of those films that I immediately wanted to discuss with others who had seen it. It contains lessons on history, ethics, and so much more. I was thankful for all I learned and will continue to learn.

 This is the Hour by Christy Nockels (music): Christy Nockels served as a worship leader with Passion conferences, but in recent years has focused on being home with her family and raising her children. Her newest album is one of those that is best heard from start to finish, and it is obvious these songs come from her heart of worshipping and encountering God in her everyday life.

 Hello Stranger by Katherine Center (book): Summer vacation may be over for many of us, but that doesn’t mean summer reading has to end! This novel was a lovely companion when I was traveling recently. It’s about a young portrait artist named Sadie who suddenly develops a condition called face blindness (it’s a real illness that the author researched so well!). This is, of course, terribly inconvenient since she paints faces for a living, not to mention that she had just met a cute guy she can no longer see clearly. It’s a great “beach read” but also has some depth to its characters that I really enjoyed.

 I’d love to know what has brought you joy recently!

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s message 8.21.23

The Best of Words

When we receive grace, it frees us from so many things.

~Tommy Bryan, August 13, 2023

I am so grateful to Tommy Bryan for filling the pulpit on August 13 when I was away on vacation. I listened to the message after coming home and was thrilled hear him talking from his heart about his love of the church, which is rooted in his love of Christ. The above quotation was something that he said that really stuck with me.

There are few better words in the world than “grace.” It carries the weight of a Savior’s love for us, the gentleness of being patient with one another, the wind of God’s Holy Spirit leading and guiding us. Earlier this year, I was teaching a course for licensing school, the United Methodist program for those who wish to become licensed local pastors. The students in my class mostly worked full-time jobs or were in school full-time but felt called to serve in pastoral roles too. They were all busy with work, family, and their own church involvement, and I could sense the pressure in the room with all the assignments they needed to do. The first thing I said to them was, “You will have to put in work. You will have to put in effort. But there is also grace. And grace is abundant. If you are struggling with the assignments, please talk to me. I’m here to walk alongside you.”

There was a collective sigh in the room with that bit of permission: grace is here. Simply ask. And freedom will follow.

God desires for us to live a free and full life, not weighed down but waiting on him. Where do you need grace today? To whom will you extend grace? Do not hold back. The best of words is waiting to give you new life!

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s messsage 8.14.23

From The Archive of Isaac’s Insights

I have found a lot of joy and comfort in the past few weeks in old photos, videos, and musings about Isaac the dog. Here is an abbreviated version of an old favorite, titled “Isaac and the Elephant in the Room,” originally published on October 25, 2018.

Isaac jumped off the sofa and pulled out his toy elephant. He tossed the elephant in the air. He chewed on it. He jerked it around. He licked it. He honked all three of its squeakers. The elephant in the room was no match for the paw-stor. After a while, he tucked it under his head and fell asleep. The elephant that he had “fought” so hard had become his pillow. He rested on what had once rattled him.

We’ve all probably heard the phrase, “the elephant in the room,” to designate something that everybody sees but no one wants to address. We avoid something that we must eventually confront. We don’t deal with the tension and conflict that are as impossible to push away as an elephant.

Isaac gave me fresh perspective on how to deal with the issues we want to avoid. Resist the dread, and pull the elephant out of the its “hiding place.” There may be squeaking and pushes and pulls. There may also be relief we would not have found any other way. So often, once we’ve struggled with our elephants in the room, we are able to rest more easily. We may find more in common with the elephant than we imagined. What bothered us may end up comforting us.

Whether animals are real like Isaac or stuffed like the elephant, creation teaches us to learn the basics. Let’s cease dancing around the troubles we don’t want to address. Instead, let’s grab them by the paws and find the rest that God desires for all his children (and pets).

all good things to each of you,

dr. darian

Pastor’s message 8.7.23

Discernment and Next Steps

Dearly Beloved Friends,

Last Thursday, the Administrative Council met to vote on a recommendation from the discernment committee. The majority of the committee had recommended that the Council ask the district superintendent (DS) to call a church conference, which would be a church-wide vote on disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church. The majority of the Council approved this recommendation, and the DS has been contacted to schedule the vote.

We’ll be sharing more information in the weeks ahead about the date, time, and other logistics of the church conference. In the meantime, I want to encourage you to do three things:

  1. Prayerfully revisit our discernment website, and review what the committee assembled. Seek clarity on any questions you may have.
  1. Intentionally converse with people you both agree and disagree with. Even though this recommendation to have a church conference was approved by the majority, neither the discernment committee nor the Administrative Council were unanimous in their decisions. I share this detail to remind us that division is present in our congregation, and God desires for us to respond rightly to the reality of division. As the Holy Spirit leads you, reach across the aisle to one another in love. Listen to one another.
  1. Most importantly, spend time alone with the Lord. Immerse yourself daily in His Word and prayer. Take deep breaths as you slowly let His Word wash over you. Allow him to transform you from the inside out.

Even though the discernment committee’s work is technically done, the work of discernment never stops for the body of Christ. Let us continue to listen to him together. Above all things, beloved, do not cease to give thanks. Give thanks for what God has done. Give thanks for who he is. Give thanks for how he is at work among us and within us. To him belongs the glory.

all good things to each of you,

  1. darian