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


Pastor’s Message 4.24.23

What’s Bringing Us Joy in April


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.

The Book of Common Courage by KJ Ramsey (book): The subtitle of this prayer book is, “Prayers and Poems to Find Strength in Small Moments,” and it is perfect for all moments. I’ve been meditating on one or two pages each night before going to bed, and it’s helping me sleep better! Ramsey is a therapist and poet who frames the book around Psalm 23, and she brings in other Scriptures to complement it.

 Ted Lasso: Season 3 (TV show): The first time I ever shared monthly “joys,” I included in the list seasons 1-2 of Ted Lasso. The third season is releasing weekly on Apple TV, and I still look forward to each new episode. As a reminder, this is a show about a football coach from Kansas who is hired to coach “football” in England (aka soccer, of course). It has always been funny and sweet, but it has also become an excellent look into mental health. The characters are worth meeting and knowing, but keep in mind the language and some scenes are not for the youngest ears and eyes.

 The Vigil by David Nevue (music): On Good Friday, pianists David Nevue and Joe Buongiorno shared a fabulous piano concert from Arizona on YouTube. One of the pieces David Nevue played was from an album he composed in 1999. The Vigil came to him as a way of praying on his church’s piano one night, and he composed most of the album in that one night. It is also a wonderful resource for good sleep.

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

 all good things to each of you,

dr d


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