Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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When the Mountains Move Us

“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4

Magnificent. Glorious. Majestic. It is hard to find the words that can truly describe the beauty, majesty, and wonder of the world that God created and continues to create. As Scott and I made our way from Colorado to Utah, to Wyoming, everywhere we looked were sights that took our breath away. One day we found ourselves hiking along a river in a canyon just outside of Denver. With the city just a mile away, the only sound we heard was the sound of the water rushing along the creek bed. Another day we would find ourselves hiking through the vast desert landscape of Arches National Park, dotted with mammoth red and orange rock formations created over thousands of years. It was there that I thought of Elijah when he fled to Mount Horeb and how, after days of rest and recovery, he stood outside the entrance to the cave waiting for the Lord to pass by and heard “the sound of sheer silence.” I remember getting out of the car at Grand Teton National Park and taking in the panorama of mountains before me and just weeping at their beauty. Then there was Yellowstone, with its astounding array of ecological diversity – everything from mountains to canyons, rivers, lakes, geysers, mud pots, travertine terraces, vast fields of wildflowers, and my personal favorite, the wildlife. 


With every view, I was taken out of my small, narrow, world of worry and stress and invited to dwell once again in the bigger picture of God’s incredible work and presence in the world. At every turn, I was reminded of the vastness and goodness of God’s creation and the power and majesty of God to which these majestic scenes point, which is what the Psalmist describes in Psalm 19. I thought also of Psalm 8, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” 


I began to let go of so much that I was carrying: burdens, stress, anxiety, hurts, disappointments. I began to dwell more in the deep goodness, beauty, and grace of life and the created world. And my heart was turned to wonder, to praise, and to worship of the God who made it all, holds it all, carries it all, (and without my help, I might add) and yet still cares for and walks with me, with all of us. How amazing is that? 


For me, moments such as those described here, naturally move me to worship. They move my focus away from me and toward the God of the universe who created heaven and earth, you and me, and sustains it all in love. This Sunday in worship we will be thinking about the importance of worship as a spiritual practice that first and foremost seeks to honor and praise God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all. Worship invites us to recenter our hearts and minds on the transcendence and greatness of God. At the same time, it shapes our hearts personally and it shapes us as a community that more clearly reflects the life and heart of Christ for our community. We are made for worship, and I believe we need worship so that our restless hearts can find our rest in the Triune God. 


I hope you will plan to join us in worship this Sunday, whether in person or online – where we will offer ourselves in worship to God and reflect on the power of that corporate action to lift our eyes to God, broaden our perspective and shape our hearts to conform more to the heart of Jesus. 


Grace and Peace,

Pastor Annette

My Summer at Suntree Kids

I have had the privilege of connecting with your incredible children over the past few months, and it has truly been delightful. The children’s ministry program here at Suntree has a rich history filled with community-building events. I am thankful to have been a part of it, even for such a short time.

Throughout the summer, your children have participated in several fun days that are part of our Summer of Creation theme. There, they have explored God’s creative spirit, in them and the world, through visual arts and the wonders of the natural world, to this past week’s theater day. Your kids have loved learning new things, making art and costumes, and engaging with the world around them. Meanwhile, on Sundays, they have learned the same stories as the rest of the congregation upstairs, tailored to their age range and personal growth. They know about the Apostle Paul and his unrelenting pursuit to spread Jesus’s message of love. They now know that prophets are not fortune-tellers, and they do not see the future, but are instead in communication with God to help their people follow God’s word. They have engaged in creative, hands-on activities that help illustrate the main themes of the day. Pastor Allee has even led them in their own service of communion!

This week’s scripture comes from the book of Malachi, wherein the process of being in relationship with the divine is described as a refiner’s fire. God purifies in ways that in the moment may feel difficult, destructive even. But as hard as this process is, the righteousness that comes from it allows us to engage with God in ways we never would have imagined before. Since a refinery is most likely a concept foreign to your kindergarteners and fifth graders, we are instead looking towards volcanoes to demonstrate this point. As a group we will watch the Firebird sequence from Disney’s Fantasia 2000, and will discuss how, although volcanoes burn away the things around it, that allows for new growth that is stronger than ever. Your children will come from church on Sunday understanding that the change they go through in their relationship with God will help them become better people, more attuned to the needs of others, and able to engage with their community with love and compassion.

I only have a few more weeks here at this wonderful church before I head back to Atlanta for my last year in seminary at the Candler School of Theology. The community here has changed me for the better. I feel renewed and rejuvenated, ready to take on another fall semester.

Thank you for your sincere welcome and support from the very beginning. I hope you have enjoyed seeing the excitement of your children here as they explore God’s creative spirit. I cannot wait to see you all on Sunday. Have a blessed and restful week!

Gratefully yours,
Grace Stiles Williams

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