A Word from Your Pastor

A Word From Your Pastor


The Alexamenos Graffito was discovered in 1857 during excavations of Roman buildings near the Palatine Hill. It is graffiti, scratched into the wall of a building. It now resides in the Palatine Hill Museum. The Graffito dates to ca. 200 of the Common Era. The Graffito is intended to be derogatory of Christians and their God. It depicts a man to the left of a Roman cross, one arm raised in worship. On the cross is a man with the head of an ass. The crude Greek inscription reads “Alexamenos worships his god.”

Arthur Dewey, in “Inventing the Passion” (Polebridge Press, 2017, p. 9), notes that the Graffito is significant because it is one of only two depictions of the crucifixion which can be dated before the fifth century. (The other is a third century Syrian gemstone depicting Jesus tied to a Roman cross.) Dewey further explains that iconography in the first four centuries commonly depicted Jesus as a wisdom teacher and a healer. Oral and written tradition attested to the crucifixion of Jesus but in proper Roman society crucifixion was not written about or depicted artistically. Crucifixion was meant to utterly humiliate, dishonor and erase from social memory its victims. The Romans used it to strike fear into those they ruled. Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, rebels, and others who dared to speak against the empire. Crucifixion was public, traumatic, and common in the empire. The crucified were not to be remembered.

Resurrection was also common. It was not unusual for great men of antiquity to be raised into glory at death by the gods. The second century apologist, Justin Martyr, wrote that he claimed nothing different about Jesus than the Romans claimed of their heroes in proclaiming his resurrection (1 Apology 21).  But resurrection to heavenly glory was reserved for likes of Mercury, Asclepius, Bacchus, Hercules and the Caesars. Jesus was nobody. He was a common laborer. He wasn’t wealthy. He wasn’t powerful. He was an itinerant preacher (read: homeless). He was a social critic. He was a pretender who claimed to be a king. In the ancient world resurrection was something the gods did for good men. It was not something the gods did for crucified criminals.

When we speak of resurrection today most people think of Jesus. Even if it is hard to believe, the one person we do believe to have been resurrected is Jesus. We think that made him unique. But what made the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead unique was crucifixion. Crucifixion was dishonorable. It was humiliating. Its’ intent was to erase the crucified from memory. Crucifixion was not the noble death died by great men. In first century Rome it would have been impossible for someone who was crucified to be resurrected. Today we consider the Alexamenos Graffito repulsive. In the first century Roman Empire it was a pretty good joke.When we speak of resurrection today most people think of Jesus. Even if it is hard to believe, the one person we do believe to have been resurrected is Jesus. We think that made him unique. But what made the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead unique was crucifixion. Crucifixion was dishonorable. It was humiliating. Its’ intent was to erase the crucified from memory. Crucifixion was not the noble death died by great men. In first century Rome it would have been impossible for someone who was crucified to be resurrected. Today we consider the Alexamenos Graffito repulsive. In the first century Roman Empire it was a pretty good joke.


A Word From Your Pastor


On Monday, March 5, Richard Spencer will be speaking on the MSU campus at the livestock pavilion from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Spencer rejects the title of white supremacist for himself but many consider him to be just that. A controversial figure, he has allegedly cited Nazi propaganda during some of his speeches. He claims to be the originator of the term “alt-right” and is reported to have called for the peaceful ethnic cleansing of Europe. Many know Spencer as a principle speaker at the “Unite the Right” event last year in Charlottesville, Virginia. That event devolved into violence resulting in one death, a number of injuries, and property damage. Spencer has tried to hold speaking engagements at other public institutions with limited success. 

On January 31, members of the East Lansing Interfaith Clergy Association met with the MSU police department to discuss possible responses to Spencer’s visit.  Law enforcement officials are urging people not to attend. The University granted Spencer 300 tickets. Only ticket holders will be admitted to the event. Protesters are expected outside the event. Fewer people present will make it easier for police to maintain safety. The event has been scheduled for spring break so that fewer students will be on campus. Roads around the area will be closed.

Some people will attend the event to protest against Spencer and his views. Some will do so as a peaceful witness. Others may take a confrontational approach. Some are organizing to “resist” Spencer, others to “stop” Spencer. Legally, Richard Spencer has a first amendment right to speak to his views publicly. While I commend those who disagree with him, I also acknowledge his Constitutional right to free speech. I hope that those who oppose Spencer do so thoughtfully and non-violently for their own sakes, for the sake of our community, the University, and with respect for the difficult position that law enforcement personnel will be in on March 5.

One way to resist Richard Spencer is to ignore him while witnessing to something better. On Saturday, March 3, from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. at our church, the movie “13th” will be shown. This is about the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and racism in our country. There will be child care, dinner and a time for discussion. On Monday, while the Spencer event is happening, the East Lansing Interfaith Clergy Association, along with a number of student and civic groups, will be celebrating diversity at All Saints Episcopal Church, 200 Abbot Road, in East Lansing. There will be food, entertainment and opportunity to celebrate racial and cultural diversity in our community. I hope that you will choose a peaceful and positive way to express any opposition you might have to Richard Spencer’s visit.

A Word From Your Pastor

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Refuge Lansing is a storytelling project celebrating decades of refugee resettlement in mid-Michigan. These are stories about families who have fled violence and persecution in their home countries and are now an integral part of the Lansing region - buying homes, starting businesses, sending their children to local schools, and adding to the diverse quilt that makes us such a unique, welcoming community. Our church will host the Refuge Lansing traveling display from Friday, February 23, through Sunday, March 4.

Accompanying the Refuge Lansing exhibit is a beautiful, 64-page, full-color book. Copies are available for a minimum donation of $25 to the Global Institute of Lansing, Refugee Development Center, Samaritas or St. Vincent Catholic Charities. Books will be available during the exhibit at church.

As a part of this project, Judi Harris of St. Vincent Catholic Charities Refugee Services will address the congregation on Sunday, February 25. Judi has been the program director for Refugee Services since 2008. She manages staff, coordinates services and develops community relationship networks to assist refugees in successful resettlement and integration into the greater Lansing Area community.

Judi earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and French from San Francisco State University and a Master in Health Education from Trinity College in Washington, DC. Judi speaks four languages. She has worked in the Balkans, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. She is also a refugee foster parent. Judi will also be available after the service on Sunday, February 25, for a time of question and answers.

A Word From Your Pastor


Overt expressions of racism are mostly condemned in our society. When such overt expressions occur they are often quickly condemned as appalling or unacceptable. More problematic, though, are covert and subtle instances of racial prejudice that are less noticeable. Often they are unnoticed by those who commit the acts. Racism in the United States has been a part of our culture for four centuries. Therefore, it often goes unnoticed, even by those who may unintentionally manifest racist tendencies.

Researchers at Harvard University and The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University have been conducting research on racial bias for a number of years. They have developed an online survey instrument that is designed to help people understand what they call “Implicit Bias.” The instrument is called the IAT or Implicit Association Test. The test can be taken by anyone. The results are confidential. The IAT is intended to help people learn about their own racial biases.

Implicit Bias refers to unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect understanding. Implicit Bias is activated involuntarily. It is very subtle and often beyond our control. Implicit Bias stems from the social construction of white as normal in our culture. White has been the standard for normal for so long that even non-white people living in the US come to accept white as normal. According to researchers, people of color often unconsciously manifest preferences for “whiteness” because our culture has unfairly given preference to the white race for centuries. People who test completely free or almost free of implicit bias are extremely rare.

On Saturday, March 3, our Church and Society Committee will host a screening of the movie 13th. The movie title refers to the thirteenth amendment to the US Constitution and its connection to racial bias in America. There will also be a dinner and a panel discussion following the movie. In April, the congregation will be asked to read America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America” by Jim Wallis. As we engage one another in discussion about race in America I encourage you to go online and take the test for Implicit Bias. (Log on at  https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ )

A Word From Your Pastor


Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened (MT 7.7-8).

I am asking that our contemporary service launch team will double in size from twelve members to twenty-four. And I am asking that it happen sooner, rather than later. I am also asking that people who are prompted by God to join this team invite others to join with them. It would be especially great if those extra invitees came from outside our congregation. I am asking this because I hope that a new worship service might be a new place for new people to connect with God through our church. Our launch team needs to grow to forty people so that we can launch a new service with a good sized group. If forty people join the team and then invite their friends and families to try something new, we could launch a new worship service with 100 in attendance on the first day!

I am not asking that we split up our existing congregation. A new and different Sunday morning experience makes it possible to create new places for new people in our church. A new worship service in a different style at a time other than our current service will offer more choices to more people. More choices for more people offers more opportunities to connect people with God through our church.

I am asking for people who are mission-minded, outreach oriented, energetic and not afraid to take a risk. I am asking for people willing to build ministry teams and small groups for hospitality, media presentations, worship and music planning, sermon planning, stage set-up and tear-down, children and youth ministry helpers and small group leaders for Sunday mornings. I am knocking on the door. I am searching. I am asking. God, are you listening?

A Word From Your Pastor

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Governance Board Begins Work

On November 19, 2017 the members of University United Methodist Church adopted a motion to move from our Administrative Board model for church governance to a single board model for policy and governance. The plan presented by the task force to the congregation didn’t involve a complete transition to a single board. Instead, the recommendation was to maintain our Staff-Parish Relations Committee, Finance Committee, Missions Committee and Board of Trustees while making the membership of these groups smaller. The transition plan calls for these committees and boards to reduce their memberships to the smallest number allowed by the Book of Discipline by December 31, 2018. These standing committees and boards may be kept in place indefinitely but the transition plan does allow the Governance Board to petition future Church Conferences to dissolve those standing committees by a vote of the congregation if that is deemed to be in the best interest of the church.

The new Governance Board is tasked with keeping the vision, mission and values of the church before the congregation. The Board has met twice thus far for orientation and for training. Their first regular business meeting will be on Sunday, February 11, beginning at noon. At that meeting they will begin to review existing church policies, look at existing groups and ministries in the church, consider which parts, if any, of our Vital Church Initiative report will be a part of our strategic plans moving forward and they will consider the budget presented to them by the finance committee. They will also consider how best to direct the work of the pastor, staff and standing committees in the church so that we are effective and faithful in carrying out our vision, mission and values.

Our new board members are Gretchen Couraud (chair), Susan Curtis, Ellen Alward (one year terms), Andy Kilpatrick, Peter Berg, Susan Holloway (two year terms), Zach Constan, Lynn Paine, Kee Tsai (three year terms) and Debbie Stevenson (secretary). They have already been at work reviewing ministries, membership and financial information. Starting from scratch, they have a lot of information to assimilate and a great deal of work to do. They are, without a doubt, up to the leadership task to which they have been elected. Nonetheless this new group of leaders certainly appreciates your prayers and encouragement as they begin this new ministry of leadership on our behalf.

A Word From Your Pastor

I write in my books. I dog-ear the pages, too. Sometimes I go back and read what I underlined, the pages I marked and comments I wrote in the margins. Sometimes I can’t remember why things once seemed important. Other times I am glad to be reminded of the truly important.

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Looking over my Advent devotional, Celebrating Abundance, by Walter Brueggemann, I discovered that pages 44 and 45 (Third Thursday in Advent) were heavily marked. The title for that day is A Dangerous Summons. The devotion is about the call of Jesus to repentance, for the kingdom of heaven is drawing near. Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, follow me. According to Matthew, they immediately left their nets and followed.

The summons is dangerous because the kingdom of heaven is different. We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth…” What would change if our prayers were answered? If we really let God run things, our world might become unrecognizable! We prepare for the kingdom with repentance. That means exercising our choice to change. We can change if we choose. We can choose to change our minds, change our hearts, change our values, change our allegiances, and change our behavior. Change can be frightening, especially when if it’s personal. We may have to drop something important in order to enter the kingdom. We can change so that our will aligns with God’s will. The summons is dangerous because it is a summons to follow. Jesus asks for undivided loyalty. Loyalty to old ways has to be relinquished. Following means doing things Jesus’ way.

Matthew wrote that Peter and Andrew immediately left their nets and followed him. They eagerly embraced Jesus and his way. They were eager for a new way, a new world so they dropped something important. Who is eager to drop what is important and embrace a totally new way? What is more important than the way of Jesus?

Brueggemann notes that Jesus did not nag or coerce anyone. He simply offered the invitation to follow him on his way. Sometimes I wonder how many people Jesus called before twelve said yes. How many others said no because something else was more important? Walter Brueggemann calls this A Dangerous Summons.  Jesus came into the world to change it. Jesus came to change us. Is anything else more important?

A Word From Your Pastor

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Each year the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent treats “the little apocalypse.” Mark is our earliest gospel, written during the Roman siege of Jerusalem (66-70 ce). As Israel attempted to escape oppressive rule, the Romans besieged Jerusalem, causing starvation and the destruction of both the city and the Temple. Many resisters were executed following the siege, often by crucifixion. Some saw this as a sign of the end. Some hoped that Jesus would return to restore justice. This is reflected in Mark 13. Matthew and Luke copied Mark, incorporating the little apocalypse into their gospels. The little apocalypse acknowledges the longing for the return of Jesus who would make things right. Advent prepares us for the coming of the Christ child. But Advent always begins with the possibility of Jesus returning to restore justice.

All past predictions of the return of Jesus have been wrong. Traditional teaching that Jesus would return soon has led to a credibility problem for the church. Every misguided prediction is rationalized away. The timing of “soon” is repeatedly redefined. But is the fervent hope that Jesus might one day return simply misguided? Why did it persist in the early church of imperial Rome?

The desire that Jesus return was nothing less than the desire expressed in the Lord’s Prayer: “… thy will be done on earth…” First century Christians understood the principalities and powers of the world to be corrupt and unjust. The lone super power was crushing ninety percent of people through land grabs, taxation and threat of violence. With a Second Advent Jesus would bring peace with Justice for those abused by the rich and powerful. The hope that Jesus would return may have been misguided but I understand why first century Christians hoped it would happen. If the rule of Rome is oppressive, the longing for God’s rule grows.

As we prepare again for the first coming, think about what a second coming might look like. What John Dominic Crossan calls “the great cosmic clean-up” could be shocking. Jesus might do some house cleaning. But where to start? Washington? Wall Street? Syria? North Korea? The Church? What might say to me? Would Jesus agree with the way we have been doing things? If he did come back would we see less greed and more generosity? Maybe we wouldn’t need so many guns. Or ballistic missiles. Hatred and prejudice might give way to cooperation. Telling the truth might become important again. The health care problem would probably get solved. Politics might become more compassionate. There are real reasons to hope for a Second Advent of Christ.

I doubt that Jesus will come back. But it is extremely hard to prove that something cannot possibly happen sometime in the future. So what if he did come back? What would that look like? What would change?

A Word From Your Pastor

What Would Jesus Carry?

I once visited a church just to see if it was really true. I had been told by some members of my church that a church not too far from ours had ushers who carried guns. I went to check it out. All the ushers were men. They all wore suits. None had a gun strapped to their hip. They kept their coats buttoned, though. And they never sat down. They did appear vigilant. Or maybe that was my imagination. I kept looking for a bulge under one arm of the suit coat. I came back and told my church members I wasn’t sure if those ushers were packing or not. My guys seemed disappointed. They really thought I would feel better if they were packing heat every Sunday.

That isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. The Texas attorney general suggested after our most recent shooting that church attenders should carry concealed weapons. Not just the ushers, everyone. Well, maybe not everyone. He’s smart enough to draw the line at Sunday school kids. I am sick at the thought of someone shooting people in church. Would an accidental shooting in the pew be described as the price we pay for keeping church safe? Might an accidental discharge set off an unintended firefight? I have never understood how encouraging everyone to carry a gun will make us all less likely to be shot.

I understand that people have rights. I have those same rights. I have the right to free speech. And I realize that sometimes it is in everyone’s best interest for me to keep my mouth shut. I used to own guns. In days past I kept two different pistols loaded and handy. When the kids were little I kept the clips out of the pistols. But they weren’t far away. Then one day I had a crazy thought. We'd be safer if I chose not to exercise my rights. I still have those rights. I just don’t exercise them.

In the Roman Empire peace and order were maintained through the threat of violence. If someone got out of line they could easily be put in their place. Or eliminated altogether. Everybody understood that. Violence may not have been sought, but it was understood to be normal. It was the price people paid for living in the world’s most powerful empire. Jesus imagined a different kind of empire, though. One where peace-makers were blessed. One where evil was not repaid with evil. He called it the empire of God. It might have been the product of an over active imagination. Or a prophetic imagination. He dared to say there was an alternative to an empire where violence was just normal. Maybe I suffer from an over active imagination. But try as I might, I can’t imagine Jesus bringing a gun to church. Not even under his suit coat.

A Word From Your Pastor

by Rev. William Bills

The United Methodist Church doesn't have 100 years

A seminary professor once remarked that “Change happens very slowly and in the church about a hundred years later.” Change is often accompanied by loss, real or imagined. Loss results in grief. Change can be a very emotional process.

In May of 2016, at the United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon, delegates from all over the world debated changes to our rules around the ordination of non-heterosexual persons and the allowance of same sex weddings in our churches. These changes would affect United Methodists all over the world. The debate became quite emotional at times. Talk of schism was significant. Our bishops tabled all legislation on the topic until a special General Conference can be convened in February of 2019. Whether change comes in 2019 or the status quo is upheld church members and clergy will leave the United Methodist Church. Significant change will be occur regardless of the votes cast. Sometimes change just happens.


At a leadership event held at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas one presentation dealt with trying to hold our denomination together in spite of differences around human sexuality. One of the presenters offered data indicating that membership and attendance will drop below one million in the United States by 2050. We are currently at 5.6 million.

To say that lower church attendance is only the result of disagreements over human sexuality is disingenuous. There are many reasons for declining church attendance in America and they cut across all denominations. Church attendance in America has been declining for almost four decades. A 2015 study on growing churches indicates a correlation between growth and innovation. One might infer then that decline and resistance to change possibly go hand in hand.

I will have to live to be 90 to see the year 2050. If I am still around I will check to see if the United Methodist Church has indeed dipped to below one million members in the United States. That would be a decline of over 80% from today.

It wouldn’t appear that we can keep doing forever what we are doing today and expect to leave a viable church to those who come after us. Change can be emotionally trying. It often happens very slowly. The United Methodist Church doesn’t have a hundred years to wait.

A Word From Your Pastor


Policy Governance for churches comes from a model developed by John Carver. Carver is an adjunct professor of social work at the University of Georgia. His model was developed for non-profit organizations. Unitarian Universalist congregations adopted the model. It has since been adopted in other denominations. Policy Governance is not a product of the Vital Church Initiative. It is sometimes recommended to churches as an alternative to traditional models of church governance.

Religious organizations have developed systems of governance over decades or centuries. Most are grounded in scripture and tradition. Once a particular form is adopted tradition keeps it in place. The United Methodist Church is the result of the merging of two denominations in 1968. The governance structures resemble corporate flow charts of that era. Representative democracy can be seen in our system because the denomination grew along with the nation. American government and corporations influenced our church governance. Corporations adapt to changing circumstances to remain competitive. Our Federal government is less adaptable.

Churches that adopt Carver’s model order themselves after other non-profit organizations. The church board functions as a board of directors. The pastor and staff are accountable to the board. The pastor may act as the chief operating officer while the staff serve as department heads. The board is accountable to the vision, mission and values of the church. The board is also accountable to the congregation because a church won’t re-elect an ineffective board.

Board members keep the larger picture in view by prioritizing and planning according vision and mission of the church. The board acts proactively by engaging in strategic planning and goal-setting. Under the board’s direction, the pastor and staff are responsible for day to day operations. As needs arise, the board, pastor and staff recruit teams to meet needs. People in the congregation may also form teams to meet ministry needs. Ministry teams are trusted to do good within the parameters of the vision, mission and values of the church. The desired effect is streamlined decision making, shorter team ministry teams, and effective ministry.

No congregation and no system of governance is perfect. Moving to a single board for policy governance requires trust. The board, pastor, staff and congregation trust each other to use church resources for vision and mission according to stated values.

Our transition plan calls for maintaining the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, the Board of Trustees and the Finance Committee until such a time as the congregation might vote to dissolve them. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church allows their dissolution as long as the policy governance board maintains responsibility for property and assets (Trustees), human resources (SPRC) and finances. If you would like a copy of our proposed transition plan, contact the church office. It is also available on the church website. A town hall meeting will be held on Sunday, October 15 at 11:30. At an earlier town hall meeting the task force received feedback on our plan and is taking that under consideration. We will vote on whether or not to transition to this new form of governance on Sunday, November 19.

A Word From Your Pastor

Then Peter began to speak to them: I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35)

I have used this text for sermons at interfaith services. Sometimes, even among different Christian denominations, people will make some pretense to being especially favored by God.

According to Luke, the words belong to Peter. Peter was a devout Jew called by Jesus to discipleship. Peter was committed to the Law of Moses. He kept dietary, Sabbath and other laws. That meant he could not eat certain foods so he could not dine with gentiles. For Peter, gentile meant anyone outside his group. Through a God-given vision, Peter was convinced that God does not favor any group over another. He understood that reverence for God and a desire to God’s will renders anyone acceptable to God. Tribe, nation, language, skin color, even religion are not relevant. God shows no partiality. God doesn’t play favorites. That’s Biblical.

God doesn’t play favorites with anyone. So it is nonsense for humans to claim superiority over each another. There is really only one race: human. Every person bears some resemblance to the divine. Every person also falls short of divine perfection. But each is acceptable by the grace of God. The notion of supremacy is a human construct, evidence of our imperfection. If God is completely impartial how can anyone claim higher status than another?

To claim supremacy, racially or otherwise is, Biblically speaking, sin. Claims of white supremacy are wrong. Knowing that doesn’t mean God is partial to me only. Knowing that someone is really wrong doesn’t mean I can dehumanize or abuse them, no matter how angry or offended I might be. Christians are called to seek justice. Christians are called to confront evil. Christians are not permitted to repay evil with evil. Conversion only comes when we overcome evil with good. Racism is evil. God’s justice demands that it be confronted and resisted. But Christians do not repay evil with evil. There is evil in our society. But there is more good in God. God’s people witness to that goodness. Sometimes that will mean peacefully enduring suffering for the sake of truth.

A Word From Your Pastor

The Vital Church Initiative is not a magic bullet. But it (and things like it) are being undertaken in churches all over the country. There was a post WW II church building boom in this country. Now church attendance numbers are at all-time lows. Many congregations are simply aging out. The children of older members don’t attend church at the rates their parents and grand-parents did. Older people don’t attend as much as they used to. Because decline in churches is slow, it often goes unnoticed. If nothing is done to engage new generations, more and more churches will close over the coming decades.

I haven’t heard any dramatic success stories from VCI. In many churches it has slowed or stopped declining membership and attendance. But VCI hasn’t caused many congregations to experience rapid growth. The one proven method of growing congregations is simply to start new ones. But new churches tend to settle into habits and traditions around the 25 to 30 year mark. Then most begin a slow path of decline. 

The waning influence of the Christian Church in America has made this even more pronounced. Some churches are growing dramatically. Those churches tend to be newer. They are not afraid to innovate. Churches that have been in existence longer resist innovation. But staying the same isn’t really an option for churches in this country any more.   The majority of congregations over the age of forty face two choices: innovate and develop a plan for the future or accept a slow and steady decline. Slow and steady decline usually happens over decades in churches.

David A. Roozen of the Harford Institute for Religious Research published a study entitled “American Congregations 2015: Thriving and Surviving”. According to the study, churches that thrive today are the ones that are willing to innovate. In the study, “innovation” is just the willingness to try new things. According to Roozen, churches that try new things fare better than churches that don’t. While the Vital Church Initiative is not a magic bullet it does afford congregations an opportunity to consider where they want to be in ten or twenty years. Obviously some of us won’t be here in ten or twenty years. But that is not the point. The larger question is where will our church to be in ten or twenty years?

A Word From Your Pastor

"Intentional" Means Having a Plan

Bishop Robert Schnase notes that “The inner world is a source of power and strength but it needs to be cultivated.” (The Five Practices of Fruitful Living, p. 84) Caring for our spirits equips us to handle life’s difficulties. It also helps us serve God and our neighbors. Having a plan for faith development insures that one never stops growing in faith.

Faith doesn’t grow only by attending services, listening to sermons, reciting prayers and singing songs. These are essential to the corporate life of the church but faith development needs to be practiced with depth and consistency outside of worship. Busy schedules make this a challenge. Disciples have to make time to grow spiritually. Disciples also benefit from the intimacy, accountability and support of friends. Intentional faith development is practiced with depth and consistency with the help of others.

In Galatians 5.22-23 we are told that the fruits of the spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Growth in faith increases the fruits of the spirit in us over time. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, taught that Christians could become more Christ-like over time if they availed themselves of the power of the Holy Spirit and lived intentionally as Christians. While it is unlikely that we will ever become altogether Christ-like, having a plan for faith development will help us become more like Christ over time.

Our church recently formed a task force for intentional faith development. Please pray for that task force. They are working to develop a plan for the entire congregation. In the coming weeks and months consider and pray about your own spiritual growth. Do you have a plan for spiritual growth or does it happen in fits and starts? Can you make time to devote to nurturing your own spirit or the spirits of other people? Please consider how and why intentional faith development can become a high priority in our church and in your lives. I hope you will commit to undertake a plan intentional faith development.

From the Pastor

"I am not a man of doubt. Rather I feel sometimes that I am a man of daring. I recall the day when Mary and Martha sent word to the Lord that their brother, Lazarus, was dead. Jesus turned to us and said ‘Let us go to him.’ We know of the growing opposition to Jesus and some of the apostles didn’t want to go to Bethany; they shrank from the unseen danger. Yet I remember how I spoke out and rebuked them all by saying, ‘Let us also go with Him that we may die with Him.’ Why do people remember my doubts and forget my daring?” - Thomas, The Last Supper by Ernest K. Emurian.

UUMC dares each other to love God and to love neighbors. 

The Disciple Thomas is often lifted up as prototypic skeptic and frequently vilified as one who can’t blindly believe in the resurrection.  However, as a trained scientist, I find that skepticism an important characteristic for a seeker of truth.  

Like Thomas, scientists are frequently remembered for their doubt rather than daring. Yet their pursuit of truth comes with great risk. The experimental method challenges the scientist to ever expose themselves and their findings to vigorous scrutiny and repeatability of their discoveries.

Thomas dares to demand the repeatability of the resurrection. He gets to place his hands in the wounds of Christ following the same materials and methods of the other disciples. (and in the same location as the others). 

The question for us is, how will we dare to replicate the resurrection for others today? How will we dare to risk living daily resurrection lives that compel others to seek the truth?

 ~ Rev. W. Winston Chu




From the Pastor

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“Daring each other to love God and our neighbor.” That’s a pretty provocative statement, isn’t it?

After the 2-year education, exploration, and research effort known as the Vital Church Initiative and three visioning workshops open to the entire congregation, a small team of talented vision writers (members of our own UUMC family) crafted this new statement to capture the hopes and dreams for UUMC’s future. They needed just nine words to express all that we hope to be as a Christian community.

But what does it mean to dare each other to love God and neighbor? What does it really mean?

As Pastor Bill discussed in his Easter message, Jesus certainly dared to cross many religious and social boundaries. He dared to preach good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom to the oppressed. Jesus challenged everyone, including the religious, the wealthy, and the powerful, to live differently. Jesus’ life epitomized love for God and neighbor.

Are our lives defined and shaped by love for God and neighbor? What would be different if they were?

Join us this Sunday at worship for a conversation about how we can “dare each other to love God and our neighbor.”

Pastor Leslee Fritz